Two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, packed for Friday prayers, were attacked in a mass-fatality terrorist assault by a white supremacist who live-streamed the attack on Facebook.
New Zealand Radio, citing a childcare center manager, reported that at least 30 people were injured or killed in one of those attacks, on the Masjid Al Noor mosque, by a man wearing a helmet, glasses and a military jacket.
There was also a second attack that produced casualties and reports of a car bomb. The attack was foretold in a white-supremacist manifesto proudly proclaiming the writer’s intentions of committing a terrorist attack against the two mosques.
As of late Friday evening New Zealand time, the latest total fatality count was 49.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Friday “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
While many of the victims were immigrants or refugees “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not,” she said.
Police made several arrests Friday — “four are in custody,” three men and a woman, according to New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. He did not elaborate on whether any were the gunman.
According to social media posts, a manifesto attributed to him, and a grisly video, a man named Brenton Tarrant took credit for the attack.
He streamed the attack on Facebook Live and posted portions of it to Wordpress and other sites before they were taken down. In the 75 seconds viewed by The Washington Times, the camera point-of-view enters an area that matches photos of Masjid Al Noor mosque.
The camera then shows the barrel of a weapon as the camera follows it, as if in a first-person role-playing game. The gun fires repeatedly and on-camera deaths and woundings are seen.
“it is a terrorist attack,” Mr. Tarrant wrote in a 74-page manifesto describing his motives for the massacre, primarily hostility to mass immigration.
“To most of all show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands, our homelands are our own, and that, as long as a white man still lives, they will NEVER conquer our lands and they will never replace our people,” he wrote.
His manifesto singled out the two affected mosques as his targets, saying that he would act alone.
Mr. Tarrant calls himself somewhat of a supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, though only as a symbol, not a policy maker or leader. He also says he hopes to radicalize splits in American society and facilitate the breakup of the U.S. along ethnic lines.
Next-door Len Peneha told The Associated Press in New Zealand that a man dressed in black entered the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then left before police arrived, leaving what looked like a semi-automatic weapon in his yard as he fled.
Mr. Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try to help and “saw dead people everywhere.”
“There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He told AP he took in about five people to recover into his home, one of whom was slightly injured.
Another eyewitness told New Zealand Radio that “there was blood everywhere.”
Nearby resident Robert Weatherhead, who also sheltered people who fled the mosque, told the New Zealand Herald that the victims described a white man in his 30s or 40s in some kind of uniform.
“[They said] ‘he had a lot of magazines strapped to his legs’,” Mr. Weatherhead said.
The video of the attack shows repeated reloading of magazines as the gunman strolls through the mosque.
There also was a second attack on Linwood Masjid mosque in another area of Christchurch. According to witnesses there, multiple gunshots were heard and there were apparent casualties.
Mark Nichols, manager of Premium Tyres and Auto in Linwood, said he heard multiple gunshots from the area of the nearby Linwood Masjid mosque.
He saw two injured people, apparently still alive, carried on stretchers past his shop, he told the Herald.
“Apparently there have been people in the mosque shot, and a police officer’s been shot too,” he said.
In that second attack, “one Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun,” the Herald wrote, and once the attackers fled, “a well known Muslim local chased the shooters and fired two shots at them as they sped off.”
“They were in a silver Subaru,” the second Muslim counterattacker told police.
Elsewhere in Christchurch on Friday, police told a Guardian reporter that a crashed Subaru contained a car bomb.
“The bomb is located inside a beige Subaru that has crashed on Strickland Street, about 3km from the Al Noor Mosque where the shooting took place,” the Guardian reported.
“You’re not safe here, there’s a bomb in that car,” a senior police officer told reporter Eleanor Ainge Roy.
A video posted by the Herald shows a man being arrested next to a crashed Subaru.
Idris Khairuddin, a 14-year-old student at Hillmorton High School, said he knew about six people who were shot at Masjid Al Noor, one of them his uncle Tamizi.
“My uncle got shot in his backside, I am just praying it is not too serious,” he told the Herald.
The gunfire began as prayers were about to start, Mr. Khairuddin said.
“At first I thought it was just like construction work or something, then people were all running and screaming,” he said. “The gun shots sounded like pop, pop, pop … I heard over 50.”
According to Television New Zealand, about 20 emergency ambulances were at the scene.
All Christchurch schools had been locked down and residents advised to stay inside, Mr. Bush, the police commissioner, told reporters.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,” Mr. Bush said in a statement.
New Zealanders throughout the country were advised to avoid mosques all day Friday, the Muslim sabbath.
Amy Adams, a member of Parliament from Christchurch, wrote on Twitter that she was “horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred.”
The national cricket team of Bangladesh was in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand starting Saturday and was at the Masjid Al Noor mosque, which is in the same neighborhood as the stadium, a short walk away.
Mohammad Isam, a reporter for CricInfo, posted a video of several team members outside, apparently unharmed and leaving the mosque area.
“They were just outside the mosque about to get off from the bus and go into the mosque when they heard shooting and a lot of people running out and they saw someone wounded in front of them,” Mr. Isam told the New Zealand Herald.
Mr. Isam, a Bangladeshi himself, said the players are all safe but want to leave New Zealand.
“I don’t they’re in a mental state to play cricket at all. 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,” he said.
Later Friday, the match, the third and last in a series with the New Zealand national side for the touring Bangladeshis, was cancelled.
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