49 killed in Christchurch terror attack
The gunman broadcast footage of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch on Facebook, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a “manifesto” in which he denounced immigrants, calling them “invaders”.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor, the video showed. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.
It was the worst ever mass killing in New Zealand which raised its security threat level to the highest, Ardern said, adding that “this can now only be described as a terrorist attack”.
Police said three people were in custody including one man in his late 20s who had been charged with murder. He will appear in court on Saturday.
Police have not identified any of the suspects.
“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are enclave for extremism,” Ardern said in a national address. “We were chosen for the fact that we are none of these things. It was because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values.
“You have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you.”
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 49 people had been killed in total. Health authorities said 48 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, including young children.
U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” in what the White House called a “vicious act of hate”.
“The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.
The gunman’s manifesto praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
“He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven at a mosque in the Linwood neighborhood and one died in hospital, police said. Hospitals said children were among the victims.
The visiting Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at one of the mosques when the shooting started but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Three Bangladeshis were among the dead and one was missing, the consulate said.
Shortly before the attack began, an anonymous post on the discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, said the writer was going to “carry out an attack against the invaders” and included links to a Facebook live stream, in which the shooting appeared, and a manifesto.
The manifesto cited “white genocide”, a term typically used by racist groups to refer to immigration and the growth of minority populations, as his motivation.
The Facebook link directed users to the page of a user called brenton.tarrant.9.
A Twitter account with the handle @brentontarrant posted on Wednesday images of a rifle and other military gear decorated with names and messages connected to white nationalism. What looked like the same weapons appeared in the livestream of the mosque attack on Friday.
Facebook and Twitter said they would take down content involving the shootings.