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.
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.”
A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings said in a manifesto that he was a 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack.
The gunman who killed numerous worshippers in a New Zealand mosque on Friday was a right-wing extremist with Australian citizenship, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Morrison said the shooting in Christchurch was carried out by “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist” who was an Australian-born citizen.
He declined to provide further details, saying the investigation was being led by New Zealand authorities.
The assailant, identified as 28-year-old Breton Tarrant, shared the attack live on his social media account, but Facebook was quick to react and delete the video.
The footage showed that the guns used by Tarrant during the attack beared the names of some historic figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims, as well as assailants of older attacks targeting Muslims in Europe and in North America.
A social media account had also posted a number of pictures of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.
He also left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions. He also targeted Turks in the racist text, saying Turks will be forced out of Europe and all mosques in Istanbul will be demolished.
Ahmet Ergin, Turkey’s ambassador to Wellington, said no Turkish citizens were killed or wounded in the attack. Ergin said that he is deeply sorry and shocked by the attack, and the embassy closely follows the situation.
Residents in Christchurch were advised to stay indoors and notify authorities if they see anything suspicious.
The country’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, said three men and a woman were arrested following the shooting. He said there were “significant” number of casualties.
There were up to 200 worshipers inside the mosques for Friday Prayers.
Witness Len Peneha told reporters a man dressed in black entered the mosque and fired before running away before security forces arrived. Peneha said he saw “dead people everywhere” when he entered the Al Noor mosque to help those who were wounded.
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın strongly condemned the attacks in a Twitter post and offered his condolences to the deceased. “The world should raise its voice against anti-Muslim rhetoric to stop ‘Islamophobic fascist terrorism’,” Kalın said.
“This is a reminder that a house divided cannot stand: it is time to unite against all forms of terrorism,” Turkish Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said in statement condemning the attack.