Death toll rises to 49 in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday prayers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, ONA reports.
At least 40 people were killed and 48 others, 20 of them in critical condition, were injured in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday prayers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, ONA reports.
Ardern said 30 were killed in the Masjid Al Noor mosque and 10 were killed in a mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
"It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said, adding that 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.
There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was," said Ardern in earlier remarks. "It is clear this is one of New Zealand's darkest days."
Residents in Christchurch were advised to stay indoors and notify authorities if they see anything suspicious.
Police said on Twitter: "We can confirm there have been a number of fatalities. Police are currently at a number of scenes. We understand that there will be many anxious people but I can assure New Zealanders that Police is doing all it can to resolve this incident."
A gunman opened fire on Friday prayers at a mosque in New Zealand killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown as police launched a massive manhunt, ONA reports citing Reuters.
New Zealand media reported that between nine and 27 people were killed, but the death toll could not be confirmed. Police said multiple fatalities had occurred at two mosques, but it was unclear how many attackers were involved.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed.
Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.
“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.”
Neither Ardern nor police gave a casualty toll.
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.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “as far as we know” multiple fatalities occurred at two mosques. Police had one person in custody but they were not sure if others were involved, and people should stay away from mosques.
Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the center of Christchurch city.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
The online video footage appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to the gunman’s head.