trtworld: At least forty people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” she said. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”
“Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed,” she added.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque. He had livestreamed the shooting on Facebook.
Local media reports said at least nine people had died and 50 others wounded in the two shooting and added that the death toll was feared to rise.
Police advised people to stay away from mosques.
“As far as we know,” the fatalities occurred at two mosques, New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
The police commissioner added that three men and a woman were in custody after shootings at two mosques.
He further said a number of IEDs that were attached to vehicles were found and made safe by their defence force.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that an Australian citizen was arrested in New Zealand’s mosque shootings. He called the attacker an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” the prime minister said adding that, “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the centre of Christchurch city.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
The third cricket test between New Zealand and Bangladesh has been cancelled in the wake of the shooting. The visiting team narrowly avoided the shooting after arriving at the mosque for prayers.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at the mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach earlier told Reuters.
New Zealand Cricket said they had decided to cancel the test, which was scheduled to start at Hagley Oval on Saturday, after discussions with the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
Media reported that a gunman opened fire inside mosque in Christchurch’s Hagley Park district. There were reports of armed police at a second mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
People in centre of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.
A witness described the sound of gunfire breaking out just as the prayer leader began his sermon at a mosque.
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 is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message.
“They are shaken but good.”
Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed.
Source: Published by trtworld