Police charges one man, detains three others
The massacre at two Masjids full of worshippers attending Friday prayers by a terrorist left 49 people dead in New Zealand as authorities charged one person, detained three others and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully-planned racist attack.
The attacks targeted two Masjids in central Christchurch at lunchtime local time Friday.
A total of 48 people, including young children with gunshot wounds, were admitted to Christchurch hospital for treatment.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 41 people were killed at the al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue. Seven people died at the Linwood mosque on Linwood Avenue, and one person died from their injuries in hospital. Both of the mosques targeted in the attacks are in Christchurch city center. Police placed the two locations on lockdown.
Two improvised explosive devices were attached to a vehicle as part of the attack. One device has been disabled and authorities are working on the other.
"This goes to the seriousness of the situation," Bush said.
Three people were arrested in connection with the shootings. A 28-year-old man was charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning local time.
Two others were arrested on possession of firearms and police are still trying to understand their involvement, said Bush.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that at least one of those arrested is Australian. He said the shooting was the work of an "extremist right-wing, violent terrorist."
Police said they do not believe there are any other suspects but added that it was still an open investigation.
None of the three people arrested in connection with the attacks had been on any security watch lists prior to the attack.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people. One of the suspects was later charged with murder.
While there was no reason to believe there were more suspects, Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised to the second-highest level.
Authorities have not specified who they detained, but said none had been on any watch list. A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the four people detained was an Australian-born citizen.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Friday night that a man had been charged with murder. He did not mention the other three suspects and did not say whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.
Ardern at a news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees "they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.
They are us." As for the suspects, Ardern said "these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand."
Bush said police had found two improvised explosive devices in one car, a clarification from an earlier statement that there were devices in multiple vehicles.
He said they had disabled one and were in the process of disabling the second The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 pm. At least 30 people were killed there.
The dead included women and children. Around 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.
The survivors included 17 members of Bangladesh's cricket team, whose game against New Zealand on Saturday has been postponed, and a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled. He 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."
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
"I've lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they're very friendly," he said. "I just don't understand it." He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
There was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque that killed at least 10 people.
Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.
The police commissioner warned anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday to stay put.
The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organisation, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.
He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.
He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of "mass immigration."
New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees. Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020.