/Worshippers massacred as gunmen bring terror to Christchurch mosques

Worshippers massacred as gunmen bring terror to Christchurch mosques

Updated

March 15, 2019 15:20:39

Multiple people are dead and one person is in custody after mass shootings in two Christchurch mosques, in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has labelled “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

Key points:

  • Police say they are “unsure” if there are multiple shooters involved in the attacks on two mosques
  • Jacinda Ardern has decried it as an “unprecedented act of violence”
  • People in Christchurch have been urged to stay indoors, and all schools are in lockdown

Police have confirmed they are responding to a “serious and evolving situation is … with an active shooter”.

“[The events] involve an active shooter, they involve multiple fatalities,” New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said.

“We have one person in custody and we are unsure if there are other people.

“The multiple fatalities are, as far as we know, at two locations — a mosque at Deans Ave and another mosque at Linwood Ave Christchurch.

“Again we are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat.”

All Christchurch schools are in lockdown and a nearby students’ climate strike has been evacuated.

People in central Christchurch have been urged to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to authorities.

Ms Ardern said neither she nor police were yet in a position to confirm numbers of fatalities and casualties.

“I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence, an act that [has] absolutely no place in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said.

“This is not who we are.

“It has occurred in a place where people should have been expressing their religious freedom, where they should have been in a safe environment and they have not been today.

“The people who were subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home, they should be safe here.”

New Zealand police said they were aware of “extremely distressing footage”, recorded and streamed live by an alleged gunman, which was widely spread in the immediate aftermath.

“We would strongly urge that the link not be shared,” NZ Police said on Twitter.

“We are working to have any footage removed.”

‘I saw dead people everywhere’

The mosques were reportedly busy at the time of the attacks due to Friday prayers.

Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described seeing a man open fire within one of the mosques, before he had to break a window to flee the scene.

“He had a big gun, and lots of bullets. And he came through and he started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” Mr Al-Mahmoud said.

“They had to smash the door, the glass from the window and from the small door. We tried to get everyone to run away from the area because we couldn’t open the door for everyone.

“I ran away from the carpark, jumping over the back fence. I haven’t seen the guy correctly, but he was wearing a helmet.”

Another witness, Len Peneha, said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque in the centre of the city about 1:45pm and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Mr Peneha, who has lived next door to the mosque for about five years, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.

Mr Peneha said he then 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.

“It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

Janine Richmond, who lives nearby the mosque, said she heard about 20 gunshots.

“It started off quite slowly and then got very rapid,” she told NZ media.

TVNZ showed pictures of injured people being taken into a local hospital on stretchers.

Shrinivas Chandrasekaran, an analyst with the Bangladeshi cricket team currently touring in Christchurch, said the entire Test team had been at the mosque at the time of the attack.

“Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” Mr Chandrasekaran wrote.

An ESPN cricket reporter shared vision of the team walking quickly through a park.

Members of the team posted to Twitter after the incident to confirm they had escaped from the shootings.

ABC/wires

Topics:

law-crime-and-justice,

police,

new-zealand

First posted

March 15, 2019 12:44:05