Dozens murdered in New Zealand mosque shootings

Dozens murdered in New Zealand mosque shootings
At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured following mass shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
4 min read
15 March, 2019

New Zealand shootings

Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed at least 49 people in New Zealand, as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.

"One person, a male in his late 20s, has been charged with murder, and should appear in the Christchurch Court tomorrow morning," said New Zealand police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Scores of people have been seriously wounded and are being treated for their injuries. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" on "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said.

Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shooting. While there was no reason to believe there were more suspects, Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised to the second-highest level.

Authorities have not specified who they detained, but said none had been on any watch list. One of the detained is an Australian-born citizen.

A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page hate manifesto. In it he said he was a 28-year-old "white Australian" and a racist.

Ardern at a news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees "they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us".

As for the suspects, Ardern said "these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand".

Police Commissioner Bush said police were not aware of any other suspects. Bush said the defense force had defused a number of improvised explosive devices that were attached to vehicles stopped after the attacks.

He said anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday should stay put.

The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid al-Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45pm Arden said 30 people were killed there.

A man dressed in black enters the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Witness Len Peneha went into the mosque to try and help.

"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque," he said.

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

The shooter livestreamed the murders in horrifying detail with police advising people not to view the video. The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again.

He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children's screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle.

The gunman then walks back into the mosque, and continues shooting.

There was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque that Ardern said killed 10 people.

Moutafa Farouk, a spokesman for the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, told the New York Times it was especially shocking for this to happen during Friday prayers.

The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organisation, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.

He said the Christchurch and Linwood mosques would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.

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."

Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. Murders are equally as uncommon with 35 murders recorded countrywide in 2017 - today's death toll exceeded that of entire year. Gun ownership, however, is more common, with 1.2 million registered firearms in the country of 4.6 million in 2017.

A cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh scheduled to start Saturday was canceled after the Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape.

Players and members of the team's coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Masjid al-Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting broke out.

Batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted "entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers".