At least 49 people were killed and 48 wounded in a terrorist attack in Christchurch Central in New Zealand on Friday after gunmen opened fire in two mosques during afternoon prayers. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 41 people were killed at the Masjid Al Noor, and seven at Linwood Masjid Mosque. One of the 40 who was being treated as Christchurch Hospital succumbed to injuries.
The police have apprehended four people — three men and a woman — in connection with the attacks. One person has been charged. Among the four is an Australian national. Bush has also confirmed that officers intercepted one vehicle with two explosives, one of which was defused which the other is being defused. “It does not get more serious than this”, he said.
New Zealand terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch city: What we know so far
* A shooting at two mosques in Christchurch city’s Hagley Park district in New Zealand left at least 49 people dead and 48 others wounded. Christchurch is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
* Gunmen opened fire at the Masjid Al Noor and the Linwood Masjid Mosque during Friday afternoon prayers. In light of the attacks, all mosques across New Zealand have been asked to remain closed.
* Lockdown has been lifted on schools in Christchurch. Restrictions remain on the city, however. The police had cautioned residents against leaving home; Bush had said: “Close your doors until you hear from us again.”
* New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing it as a terror attack, said Friday marks “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. She confirmed that the police have apprehended four people, including an Australian national. She added, “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.
“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,” she added.
* The Bangladesh cricket team was on the way to the mosque on Friday afternoon for prayers when the shooting began. Their strength and conditioning coach Mario Villavarayen told Reuters, “They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun. They are shaken but good.”
* New Zealand, which has had only a handful of mass shooting incidents in the past, has a Muslim population of over 1 per cent, according to a 2013 census.
In pictures | New Zealand shooting at Christchurch mosque
* According to a witness, the shooter was “dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the mosque”, reported Reuters. A video circulating online, purportedly of the attack, has not been confirmed by the police. Bush, however, said it is “very disturbing” and “shouldn’t be in the public domain”, reported The Guardian.
* Witness Len Peneha, who lives near the mosque, says he heard several shots fired before seeing people fleeing the mosque. “I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
* The manifesto that the presumed New Zealand shooter published is shorter and “more sloppy” than the one written by a Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in 2011, but expresses similar sentiments, a Swedish terror expert said Friday. Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish National Defense College says the shooter is against mass immigration and “has to some extent the same themes as (Anders Behring) Breivik,” who posted his 1,500-page manifesto online before carrying out his deadly attacks.
* The manifesto also shows the gunman is 28-year-old Australian white nationalist and was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge and to create fear. He also intended to continue the rampage before he was caught by police, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday.
* Air New Zealand has cancelled at least 17 flights in and out of Christchurch, saying it couldn’t screen customers and their baggage following deadly shootings at two mosques. These are all smaller planes travelling on regional routes as passengers on smaller aircraft travelling to or from Christchurch do not typically go through security screening and are able to walk right onto the plane.