As many as 40 people are believe to have been killed and at least 20 more are left injured in a terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch.
Three men and one woman have been arrested in relation to the attack, police commissioner Mike Bush said, but warned more suspects may be at large. Authorities have advised all mosques in Christchurch to close their doors until further notice as a precaution.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls the attacks “New Zealand’s darkest day”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of those arrested was an Australian citizen and described him as a “extremist right-wing violent terrorist”.
A gunman entered the Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch at around 13:40 local time on Friday and opened fire on those inside with what witnesses reported was an automatic weapon. As he moved from room to room, shooting men and women, the attacker livestreamed the attack on social media via a bodycam. Authorities have asked people not to share the disturbing video.
A second mosque in the Linwood suburb of the city has also been evacuated, and Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “multiple fatalities” were recorded at two locations. Few details have emerged from the second site.
Police said they had responded to “a number of IEDs (explosive devices) attached to vehicles, that we also stopped”.
Armed police have also cordoned off Papanui High School in the city, but have released no further details.
What were the attacker’s motives
The attacker shared a manifesto online, where he rants about immigration levels, lower birth-rates of white populations, and discusses how much he has been influenced by controversial right-wing US commentators, naming Candace Owens as a particular influence.
How has New Zealand responded
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a moving statement to the people of New Zealand as news of the attacks emerged. She said:
“We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate.
“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism,” Ardern said.
“We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things.”
“We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy.
“And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this”
“You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you.”
“Many of those who would have been directly effected 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. They have no place in New Zealand.”
“For now my thoughts and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders are with those who have been effected and all their families.”
Victim Support, the New Zealand government’s primary provider of services and support for those affected by homicide in the country have setup up an official fund to help the victims of the attack.
Victim Support, the Government’s primary provider of services and support to those affected by homicide in New Zealand.