A terrorist attack on two crowded mosques during Friday prayers left forty-nine people dead and many more seriously injured in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack."
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks after confirming 40 people have been killed in shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch: https://t.co/SNXtUhGkNu pic.twitter.com/0T9YPa09m0
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 15, 2019
Witnesses spoke of seeing bloodied bodies, with children also believed to be among the dead, and police warned of “extremely distressing footage” of the incident circulating on the internet.
Police said four people — three men and a woman — had been taken into custody, and that they had found and neutralised a number of IEDS (improvised explosive devices).
A Palestinian man who was in one of the mosques said he saw someone being shot in the head.
“I heard three quick shots then after about 10 seconds it started again. It must have been an automatic — no one could pull a trigger that quick,” the man, who did not wish to be named, said
According to one witness who joined the fleeing crowd and managed to escape the scene:
“Some people were running, covered with blood. Many people were running out of the mosque, screaming, all covered in blood.”
Local media reported that the South Island city was placed under lockdown. Police said that armed officers were attending a number of scenes.
“This is an evolving incident and we are working to confirm the facts, however we can confirm there have been a number of fatalities,” police commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,” Bush said.
New Zealand police said in a tweet that they were aware of “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.”
Prime Minister Ardern called it a well-planned “terrorist attack” as a heavily armed gunman dressed in military-style clothing opened fire when a large crowd of Muslim worshipers had gathered in the mosque for prayers.
Government counter terrorism forces were activated throughout both New Zealand and Australia. For the first time ever New Zealand has elevated its national security threat level to “high.”
NOTE: This is a developing story and will be updated.