CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand police have confirmed multiple fatalities after shooting incidents at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, during afternoon prayers on Friday (Mar 15).
- Multiple fatalities at two mosques at different locations
- Four people in custody, police secured a number of improvised explosive devices
- One of the detained is an Australian citizen, Australia’s prime minister confirms
- New Zealand police request all mosques in the country to “shut their doors”
New Zealand police said four people have been detained in connection with the deadly shootings and a number of improvised explosive devices have been secured.
One of the detained has been identified as an Australian citizen by the country’s prime minister Scott Morrison, as he described the gunman as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.
“Four are in custody, three of them are men and one is a woman,” commissioner Mike Bush said, adding that there were “significant” and “multiple” fatalities.
He said the suspected IEDs found attached to the attackers’ vehicles had been made safe by the military.
The two mosques are located at Deans Avenue and Linford Avenue.
Commissioner Bush warned worshippers not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand”.
Local media had earlier reported up to six people were dead and the South Island city was placed in lockdown as police hunted for an “active shooter.”
Police also requested all mosques in the country to “shut their doors” and advised that “people refrain from visiting the premises until further notice”.
The Masjid al Noor in Deans Avenue was filled with worshippers, including members of the Bangladesh cricket team.
One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying in the Deans Ave mosque when he heard shooting and saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.
Another man said he saw children being shot.
“There were bodies all over me,” he said.
People in the centre of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed under lockdown.
Police did not immediately comment on whether the incident took place in the mosque or nearby. There is no official confirmation on casualties.
A Malaysian has been confirmed as one of the injured by the country’s High Commission in New Zealand.
“So far, one Malaysian is confirmed injured and currently receiving treatment at the hospital,” the commission said on its Twitter account.
‘NEW ZEALAND’S DARKEST DAYS’
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incidents as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
“Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. Many of those who have been directly affected by the shooting may be migrants to New Zealand.
“They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not,” she said.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told broadcaster One News that he had seen three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.
“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team was in the vicinity of the shooting but all members were safe, a team coach told media.
The team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday, but the match has been cancelled following the attacks.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team said the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
He said the players were shaken up but fine.
This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.