At least 27 people have been shot dead in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday Congregation prayers.
One suspect is in custody but police warned they are still tracing an active shooter. Police commissioner Mike Bush urged everyone to avoid all mosques across the country. He told residents in Christchurch: “Close your doors until you hear from us again.”
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said it was “One of New Zealand’s darkest days”, calling the attacks “an unprecedented act of violence”.
The city has been placed in lock down, with schools and public buildings closed. Nearby climate change protests were evacuated and council staff have been looking after children separated from their relatives in the chaos.
Ardern spoke of the attacker’s motivation, saying the victims might include refugees and migrants. “They are us,” she said, before saying the perpetrator “has no place in New Zealand”.
Witness Len Peneha says he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque – believed to have hundreds of people inside – and then heard dozens of shots. He says he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.
Witness Ahmad Al-mahmoud described seeing a man wearing a helmet coming through and shooting everyone in the mosque, people had gathered for Friday congregation prayers.”. “We’re trying to get everyone to run from the area because we couldn’t get everyone out through the door,” he told Stuff.co.nz. He said he jumped over the back fence to escape.
Bangladesh’s cricket team “just escaped” after shots were fired near to where the team was due to play the final Test match of their tour of New Zealand. They took refuge in the dressing rooms at Hagley Oval before being taken to their hotel. Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal described the experience as “frightening”.