Christchurch, MINA – Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described an alleged gunman, who had Australian citizenship, as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist, BBC News reported on Friday (15/3).
A man in his late twenties was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday morning, police confirmed.
Two other men and one woman were detained nearby and firearms seized, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
He said police had determined that one of the people detained was not involved in the incident, and officers were working to understand if the other two were connected.
The gunman appeared to have live-streamed footage of his rampage to Facebook, filmed with a head-mounted camera. The footage appeared to show him firing indiscriminately at men, women, and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque.
Police called on the public not to share the “extremely distressing” footage online. Facebook said it had removed the gunman’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any copies of the footage.
The suspect was also believed to have published a manifesto outlining his intentions, in which he identified himself as a 28-year-old born in Australia and espoused far right and anti-immigrant ideology.
Police Commissioner Bush confirmed that the suspect who was charged was not known in advance to either New Zealand or Australian security services.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” she said.
The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque, located in central Christchurch. Witnesses told local media they ran for their lives, and saw people bleeding on the ground outside the building.
A second mosque in the suburb of Linwood was evacuated, but there were fewer details from that site. Police also defused “a number of IEDs (explosive devices) attached to vehicles”, Mr Bush said.
Authorities advised all mosques in the city to shut down until further notice. Armed police were also seen at Papanui High School in Christchurch, which was cordoned off.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Bush said police were working to determine whether the other suspects detained were involved in the incident.
He said a number of firearms had been recovered from both shooting sites.(T/R04/P2)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)