Forty nine people have been killed and more than 20 others have been seriously injured in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch after at least one gunman opened fire on worshipers.
The man, who identified himself as 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, filmed the attack on social media. Dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle he started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque shortly after 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).
Gunmen then opened fire at a second mosque in suburb of Linwood, where police said there had also been multiple casualties.
Tarrant, who filmed himself attacking a Christchurch mosque in a Facebook Live video, posted a 74-page manifesto in which he claims to be from a “working class, low income family”.
He said he was of Scottish, Irish and English stock and moved to New Zealand temporarily to plan and train and then stayed there after deciding to conduct the attack.
“I have read the writings of Dylann Roof and many others, but only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik,” he wrote
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police had also defused a number of improvised explosive devices found on vehicles after the mosque shootings.
New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. Police have asked all mosques across the country to close their doors today, advising people to stay away from them.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme 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,” Ardern said.
The Bangladesh cricket team which were in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket on Saturday was arriving for prayers at the mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were reported safe.
The teams later announced the test would be cancelled.
Christchurch hospital surgeons working into the night to save victims
Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates has told the New Zealand Herald that surgeons in Christchurch are working into the night to save victims of the two mosque shootings.
Google have contacted me to explain that they posted the "inappropriate" content warning on the NZ massacre footage while they "reviewed the video" for YouTube. Not good enough. They should have just taken it down, then reviewed it. pic.twitter.com/5Zh2IfxwgR
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) March 15, 2019
He said: “What we have been dealing with today is 48 gunshot wounds that were presented at Christchurch Hospital. So we have had 12 operating theatres that have been operating since this afternoon and will be continuing through until about midnight.”
Patients’ gunshot injuries ranged from “really critically injured” through to lesser wounds.
Mr Meates added: “With the size and scale of the operations we are doing today, many of those will end up having multiple operations over the coming days and weeks due to the nature of the wounds they have got.”
This appalling atrocity is an assault on all of us who cherish religious freedom, tolerance, compassion and community. I know that the people of New Zealand will never allow hate and division to triumph over these things they hold dear.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, the first responders, the people of Christchurch and all New Zealanders at this most heartbreaking of times. ”