Four people are in custody after terrorists opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 49 people.
Hundreds of people were inside the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid Mosques in Hagley Park when at least one gunman started open firing during prayers on Friday afternoon.
Authorities have announced that a total of 49 people have lost their lives and a further 48 people were injured in the attacks.
A total of three men and one woman have been arrested. One man, aged 28, has now been charged with murder and will appear in a Christchurch court tomorrow.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said of the three other people apprehended, one, who was armed when arrested, may have nothing to do with the incident.
“With the two others, who were also armed when they were arrested, we are working through what their involvement is,” Commissioner Bush said.
“We have recovered a number of firearms from both of the scenes.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”
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Witnesses have described seeing bodies laying scattered on the ground and “blood everywhere”, while graphic footage, understood to be a live stream of the shooting, has also been uploaded to YouTube.
It shows a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, carrying a series of automatic rifles exit his car, walk to the front door of the mosque and open fire.
Three men and one woman are now in custody, however police have not ruled out there are others involved.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that one of the people arrested is an Australian-born citizen.
Businesses and schools around the city were immediately placed into lockdown, as armed police guarded the streets.
Police are also instructing people to remain indoors, confirming that a bomb has been found in a Subaru near the scene of the first mosque shooting.
The Bangladesh cricket team was also inside the mosque for Friday prayer when the shooting started, however, they were able to escape unharmed.
‘So much blood’: Witnesses describe horror
One witness told local media that he had seen three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
“I heard a big sound of the gun. And a second one, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque,” he told TVNZ.
“The floor. There’s lots of blood on the floor, you can see when you go in.”
Witness Benjamin Jellie said he ran outside when he heard gunshots.
“I saw people jumping over the back fence of the mosque into Oakward Close. I heard at least 20 [gunshots],” he told the NZ Herald.
“I heard about eight at the start and then it went quiet for about 30 seconds or a minute and then it started again. I heard about eight more and then there was another minute and another eight,” Jellie said.
“Those coming over the fence, all adults and including at least three men, were screaming and crying.”
In the wake of the shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one New Zealand’s darkest days”.
“It is an unprecedented act of violence that has no place in New Zealand,” she said at a press conference.
The person who has committed this violent act has no place here. To those in Christchurch; I encourage you to stay inside and follow the instructions of @nzpolice. The Police Commissioner will be making a public statement at 5pm. I will update everyone again later this evening.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
‘Just escaped’: Cricket team caught up in shooting
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team have described on social media their narrow escape from the mass shooting.
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.
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted ”entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
The team is reported to have left the bus and fled on foot to nearly Hagley Oval where it is due to play New Zealand in a test match starting on Saturday.
Just escaped active shooters!!! Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere!! #ChristchurchMosque
— Shrinivas (@chinu1501) March 15, 2019
Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers #christchurchMosqueAttack
— Tamim Iqbal Khan (@TamimOfficial28) March 15, 2019
Reports said the team is under lockdown in its dressing room at the stadium from which manager Khaled Mashud has remained in contact with officials from New Zealand Cricket and the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
Mohammad Isam, a journalist traveling with the Bangladesh team, said he believed the players wish to leave New Zealand as soon as possible.
”I don’t they’re in a mental state to play cricket at all,” he told Fairfax Media. ”I think they want to go back home as soon as possible. I’m speaking from experience, I’m speaking from what I’ve heard.”
Bangladesh team escaped from a mosque near Hagley Park where there were active shooters. They ran back through Hagley Park back to the Oval. pic.twitter.com/VtkqSrljjV
— Mohammad Isam (@Isam84) March 15, 2019
Mother moved to Christchurch for ‘safer life’
An emergency department nurse told Yahoo News her 13-year-old twin daughters were in lockdown in their nearby high school.
One of the girls had her phone and managed to contact her mother, while her sister was “crying and very frightened”.
“I am from Chicago,” Christine Gordon said. “I experienced 9/11. I moved here so that we can have a safer life. We did not feel that we would experience a terrorist attack.”
More to come.
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