At least 49 dead as gunman shoots through 2 mosques in New Zealand
15 March 2019
At least 49 people were dead and several others were wounded when a "right-wing extremist" armed with semi-automatic weapons opened fire in two packed mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers today.
A 17-member Bangladesh cricket team, which had been in Christchurch for a test match and was about to go into the mosque when the attack happened, was lucky to have escaped without an injury.
Video footage live-streamed by the attacker himself showed him going room-to-room and shooting victims, targeting each one and shooting the wounded from close range to ensure the victim is dead.
The main attacker, identified as a 28-year-old Australian-born man, has been arrested and charged with murder. Police suspect two others were also involved in the terror plot. They have also been taken to custody, although their link to the attack is not known.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the terrorist act, perhaps the deadliest against Muslims in New Zealand, and said it is one of the nation’s "darkest days."
The attacker will be produced at the Christchurch District Court early tomorrow.
Report said the chief suspect allegedly published a racist "manifesto" on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," said Ardern. "From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned."
Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, police said.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".
His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.
The dead were said to include women and children. Around 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.
New Zealand police described the footage as "extremely distressing" and warned web users against sharing such "objectionable content".
Police, who raised the threat level in the nation from "low" to "high" after they found two unattended bags left near a railway station in Auckland, 1,000 km away, military explosives experts detonated them.
Police also searched a property in Dunedin which they believe is linked to the attack and evacuated nearby residents.
Police cautioned Muslims all over the country against visiting mosques "anywhere in New Zealand" in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally near the shooting.