NEW Zealand Police say 49 people have been killed in mass shootings at two mosques in the Christchurch area today.
The deaths occurred at a mosque on Deans Avenue and another on Linwood Avenue.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said a man aged in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in Christchurch Court tomorrow.
“At the Deans Avenue mosque, we now know that 41 people have lost their lives,” Commissioner Bush said.
“At the Linwood mosque, seven have lost their lives.
“Of the 40 people who have been treated at Christchurch Hospital, one has now passed.
“So the total number of people who have died in this horrendous event is 49.
“Our hearts go out to them and all of their families, all of their friends, all of their loved ones, and I want to assure everyone that we will do our best for them.”
Commissioner Bush said three other people were taken into custody, but one may have had nothing to do with the incident.
“The two other people that have been apprehended, again in possession of firearms in the general environment, we are working through to understand what their involvement is,” he said.
Shocking video has also emerged online of the attack, which was believed to have been streamed live by the gunman.
Commissioner Bush said police were doing everything in their power to have the video removed from the internet.
“It’s very disturbing, it shouldn’t be in the public domain,” he said.
Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
Commissioner Bush also confirmed police had found improvised explosive devices attached to cars which the defence force had worked to neutralise.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
“I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence,” she said.
“The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home. They should be safe here.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “horrified” by the events.
I’m horrified by the reports I’m following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
Earlier police said they were responding to an incident involving an “active shooter”.
A gunman walked into the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue about 1.40pm local time (8.40am Perth time) armed with what witnesses described as an “automatic rifle”.
Witnesses have said there were ‘hundreds’ of people inside the mosque at the time of the shooting.
Any Australian citizens who require consular assistance, or families concerned about the welfare of citizens should contact +6444736411 or +61262613305
— Australia in NZ (@AusHCNZ) March 15, 2019