Christchurch shootings: New Zealand in shock after mosque attacks

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Christchurch was put into lockdown as events unfolded

New Zealand is in mourning after 49 people were killed at two mosques in the country’s deadliest-ever shooting.

PM Jacinda Ardern described Friday’s shooting in the city of Christchurch as one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.

Flowers have been left outside mosques across the country as worried families wait for news of missing loved ones.

A gunman believed to be a white supremacist live-streamed the rampage. A man in his late 20s has been arrested and is due to appear in court.

Two other people are in custody. No names have been made public.

A total of 48 people were wounded in the shootings. The identities of the dead and wounded have not been released.

Bangladesh, India and Indonesia all say some of their citizens were killed in the shooting and others are unaccounted for.

Jacinda Ardern: “This can only be described as a terrorist attack”

On Saturday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel expressed “revulsion” at this “act of terrorism” and solidarity with the victims.

“We have welcomed new people into our city. They are our friends, they are our neighbours,” she told reporters. “We want to come together to support them.”

Security remains tight across Christchurch. All mosques in New Zealand have been closed.

How events unfolded

The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch during Friday prayers at 13:40 (00:40 GMT).

A gunman drove to the front door, entered and fired on worshippers for about five minutes.

The gunman, who live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera, said he was a 28-year-old Australian called Brenton Tarrant. The footage showed him shooting at men, women and children.

A survivor told the New Zealand Herald newspaper how he escaped through a window.

Moroccan-born Nour Tavis said he was in the front row when the shooting started.

“People were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall,” he said. He saw someone smash a window. “I followed… it was the safest place to get out.”

The wife of one of his friends was killed, he said.

“When she heard the noise, she wanted to go and make sure her husband was safe,” he said. “She got the bullet, her husband got away.”

Flowers were placed at a mosque in the capital, Wellington, and others around New Zealand

The gunman is then said to have driven about 5km (three miles) to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood where the second shooting occurred.

One witness described how one of the worshippers had managed to disarm the man, who ran to a waiting car outside.

Eyewitness: “My hands were shaking so hard”

It is not clear where the arrests were made.

The visiting Bangladesh national cricket team had a narrow escape: they were on their way to pray at Al Noor mosque.

Police say they recovered firearms from both mosques, and explosive devices were found in a car belonging to one of the suspects.

Pictures on social media show an arrest being made after the New Zealand mosque shootings

According to the latest census figures, Muslims make up about 1.1% of New Zealand’s population of 4.25 million.

Numbers rose sharply as New Zealand took in refugees from various war-torn countries since the 1990s.

The main suspect

Social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.

The man says he began planning an attack after visiting Europe in 2017 and being angered by events there.

The document is called “The Great Replacement” – a phrase that originated in France and has become a rallying cry for European anti-immigration extremists.

Although New Zealand police said they had charged a man in his late 20s with murder, they did not identify him.

Global reaction

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Ardern told reporters.

In a tweet, she said: “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.”

US President Donald Trump offered his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand. “The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” he wrote.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand”.

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