New Zealanders are living their darkest day in history
Auckland, March 15, 2019
New Zealanders are tensed are in a state of shock following multiple gunshots in two Mosques in Central Christchurch this afternoon.
At least 40 people are feared dead and the New Zealand Police said that four persons, one of them a woman, have been taken into custody. The incidents happened around 140 pm (New Zealand Time) at a time when Muslims were in the Mosques offering their Friday Prayers.
People- men, women and children- were locked in their offices and schools until almost 6 pm when the New Zealand Police announced that they can go to their home.
Prime Minister mourns
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, addressing the media this evening said that there is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
‘One of NZ’s darkest days’ – PM Jacinda Ardern
She could not give any confirmation on fatalities, but “it is clear this one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Presently the Police do have one suspect in custody however there could be others involved. Also there are multiple scenes involved in this incident as well and police will be giving more details as they can as the situation unfolds,” she said.
There were two shooting incidents, at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque next to Hagley Park, and at the Linwood Masjid Mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that there have been “multiple fatalities.”
Four people are in custody, but police warn there could be more offenders.
He said that there were a number of explosive devices attached to vehicles that were stopped by Police and these were made safe by Defence Force personnel.
An eyewitness inside the Masjid Al Noor Mosque said that he heard shots fired and that at least five people were lying on the ground.
Mosques closed, Test Match cancelled
The eyewitness described seeing a man wearing a helmet and glasses and a military style jacket opening fire inside the Mosque with an automatic weapon.
About 300 people were inside the mosque for afternoon prayers.
People in central Christchurch have been urged to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
Multiple roads in the city, including Blenheim Road, Moorhouse Avenue and Brougham Street have been closed.
Police have told Mosques nationwide to shut their doors until further notice.
The Third cricket Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand, due to start in Christchurch tomorrow, has been cancelled.
Police Commissioner’s Briefing
Mr Bush said that after the shooting at two Mosques in Christchurch, four people are in custody and multiple car bombs have been disarmed.
He confirmed that there have been “multiple fatalities” at multiple locations.
A man is said to have fired hundreds of rounds at the Hagley Park mosque using an automatic weapon.
“There were a number of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) attached to vehicles that we also stopped. They have been made safe by Defence Force but that does go to the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
He said the four suspects had been captured by local police staff, and police had locked down the Mosques where the attacks took place.
“There has been some absolute acts of bravery … but let’s not presume that the danger is gone. We are not aware of other people but we can not assume there are not others at large. We are not assuming that this is contained to Christchurch, we have no information to suggest that it is … at this point in time we can’t make assumptions. This is requiring every police and emergency resource that we have available,” Mr Bush said.
Police were flying in more staff from other regions, and were setting up a facility so that people can phone in and check on their loved ones, he said.
“We don’t have the identity of the people who have died as yet.”
He said there was social media footage of the attack which they were trying to suppress.
“It’s very disturbing, it shouldn’t be in the public domain and we are doing everything we can to remove it,” he said.
Asked if it was a terrorist attack, he said that Police were still looking into the circumstances around that.
An eyewitness said that the shooter in the Mosque near Hagley Park was “very calm,” and was short, had covered his face and was wearing an army uniform.
The gunman entered the back door and started shooting people, firing, reloaded and firing again.
“He started to shoot them, anyone who he thinks is still alive he will continue shooting them. He didn’t want anyone to stay alive.”
The eyewitness hid in the pulpit and people broke the windows and ran away.
Mohammad Jama was at the Mosque. He told Checkpoint that the shooter was a short, white man, and he had a long black automatic weapon. There were 250 men in the prayer room, and around 50 women.
“And he opened fire everywhere, everywhere. And the people were shouting and running and running.”
Jama said that he called the Police but didn’t see where the man went.
The Mosque which was the scene of the shooting (Photo: Google Street View)
Another eyewitness described seeing people covered in blood with more than a dozen people injured after a shooting at mosques in Christchurch.
Watch: a witness describes police apprehending one of the suspects by ramming his car:
Azam Ali, who was praying at Linwood Masjid mosque in Christchurch with about 150 others, said that he saw up to 13 people injured after a man walked in and opened fire.
“We were into 10 minutes of our prayers and then we heard gun shots outside, but kept on praying. Next minute, it was inside. He was a light-coloured skin guy and he started firing and we all went for cover.
“A couple of guys from inside probably ran outside and they all came out in blood. When we got up we saw people lying around us [who] were shot. They had blood coming out, some from the neck.
“(There) were between eight to 13 people (injured). When we did not hear anymore shots, we got up … five minutes after that the police turned up and escorted us outside.
“I have lived in Christchurch for 25 plus years; I haven’t seen anything like this. This is not right, this is not Christchurch. Day by day, there is so much racism (and) the conflict we are getting, it’s not right.”
Man shot in the leg
A teacher at a childcare centre close to the Masjid Al Noor Mosque next to Hagley Park said that a parent has told her father-in-law was shot in the legs.
Maysoon Salama works at a childcare centre nearby.
She said that she heard from parents that about 30 people have been shot and injured, and that people have been killed.
She said that she heard that there’s more than one gunman, and that one of the shooters had run away and was being chased by Police.
A parent who had come to the centre to pick up her daughters said her father-in-law had been shot in the legs, Ms Salama said.
“We asked about our families but she didn’t know.”
They were trying to contact the parents to take their children home and it was “chaotic situation”.
She said they have locked all the doors and windows.
Ms Salama said she had been trying to get hold of her husband and son but had not been able to yet. She has last heard from them when they left to go to prayers which started at 130 pm.
“It seems that people who went a little before time were trapped there, people who came just on the dot were outside the mosque and were not allowed to enter because the shooting had already started.”
‘A few shots, then some more, then some more’
Andrew Read was in an office about 2 pm from the Masjid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch.
His office was in lockdown, and armed offenders are going through his building and buildings next door. He and his colleagues heard the gunshots.
“It sounded like a semi-automatic weapon, so very regular shots going off, and quite a number, there’s been reports of 20 – it was easily 20 shots. A few shots, then some more, then some more, and it was quite awhile before we heard sirens, and realised something was going on.”
Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers
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