A police officer is seen after reports that several shots had been fired at a mosque, in central Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019, in this still image taken from video..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Residents of Christchurch, New Zealand were instructed by police to remain indoors as news of a shooting attack directed at local mosques broke out Friday.
"This is one of New Zealand's darkest days," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."
Forty-nine people were killed and more than twenty were seriously wounded in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the Al Noor mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and "there was blood everywhere".
"Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred," said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team was going to Friday prayers at the mosque, the Masjid Al Noor, when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Shootings were reported at the Al Noor Mosque, the Linwood Masjid mosque and Christchurch Hospital.
Mohan Ibrahim described events to the Herald,
saying he ran for his life when he heard the shots.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque. Allegedly, the man broadcasted the killing via social media networks and is an Australian citizen by the name of Brenton Trent.
"A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter," Police Commissioner Mike Bush was quoted as telling reporters. "Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation,but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand," Ardern said.
"They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who has perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand."
New Zealand police detained four people on Friday after the mass shootings at two mosques in the city.
"Four are in custody. Three are men and one is a woman," New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters in Wellington.
"There were a few reports of IEDs strapped to vehicles which we were able to secure," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices.
He said it was not possible to assume that the attack was isolated to Christchurch, saying: "At this point in time we should never make assumptions."
Reuters contributed to this report.
This is a developing story.
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