Christchurch, (NZ)March 15, 2019: An attack on two crowded mosques during Friday prayers left multiple people dead, police said, on what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.
Witnesses spoke of seeing bloodied bodies, with children also believed to be among the dead.
Police said four people — three men and a woman — had been taken into custody, and that they had found and neutralised a number of IeDs.
The Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch was filled with worshippers when the attack happened, as was the second mosque in suburban Linwood.
The deadliest shooting occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m. Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions. He said he considered it a terrorist attack.
He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of ‘mass immigration.’
The manifesto detailing motivations for the attack was posted on Friday morning onto a Twitter account with the same name and profile image as the Facebook page that streamed the attack.
Entitled ‘The Great Replacement’, the 73-page document said the gunman had wanted to attack Muslims.The title of the document has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that believes European populations are being displaced in their homelands.
There was no official information on casualties but a Bangladesh cricket team spokesman said none of the players were hurt.
“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” he told AFP.
He said the attack happened as some of Bangladesh players disembarked from a team bus and were about to enter the mosque.
He said most of the players went to the mosque.
He said Bangladesh cricket board is in contact with New Zealand cricket authorities and would take further decisions after consultation.
Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally disturbed man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.
However, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.