New Zealand Christchurch mosque shooting: Hours after two mosques were targetted by unidentified gunmen in Central Christchurch of New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a “terror attack.” “We believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence. It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
The death toll has now increased to 49, and one person has been charged.
“We New Zealanders were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone this racism, or because we are an enclave of extremism, we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things,” Ardern said.
“Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here,” the PM said in a media briefing.
“I want to send a message to those directly affected… For many this may have not been the place they were born. For many New Zealand was their choice, a place they actively came to and committed themselves to…it was a place where many came to for their safety. A place where it was safe to practice their culture and religion,” Ardern said.
Urging New Zealanders to remain in lockdown, Ardern had said, “They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was. The advice from police continues to be that people remain indoors.”
“We are potentially still dealing with an evolving situation. And again, as I say, across multiple sites. Please be assured, though, the police are actively managing the situation. Agencies are already convening in Wellington. I will be looking to meet with them as soon as I land. It’s my expectation that once I arrive and have been briefed, I intend to speak again publicly after that point,” Ardern added.
A witness told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the mosque. “A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
Police have taken into custody a suspect, however, they are yet to issue a statement on the number of shooters involved. Meanwhile, authorities have urged all mosques to close their doors and remain indoors. “We ask all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting these premises until further notice,” New Zealand police tweeted.