New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the shooting one of New Zealand’s darkest days.
Rabat – Forty-nine people are dead and at least 50 more are seriously injured following an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, March 15.
Forty-one people were killed at al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, and eight people died at the Linwood Mosque on Linwood Avenue, according to New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Police first received reports of the shootings at 1:40 p.m. Friday, local time, when mosques around the world are busiest as Muslims convene for Friday prayers. One witness, Mohan Ibn Ibrahim, who was inside one of the mosques during the attack, told CNN that the attacker continuously shot at people inside the mosque for “10 or 15 minutes.”
He also told CNN, “It’s a big mosque and there were more than 200 people inside. The gunmen came from the backside. Gunshots went on for a long time. We had to jump the wall to escape. I saw lots of broken glass and bricks on the backside of the mosque.”
Another witness, Len Peneha, who lives next door to al Noor Mosque, said he saw a man dressed in all black run into the mosque, and then he heard shots and saw people fleeing the mosque. Peneha said he saw the attacker flee the mosque and then drop his semi-automatic weapon in his driveway. Peneha then took about five people into his home to recover from their distress.
He was quoted by 9 News Australia as saying, “I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque.”
Peneha said he was baffled by the attack, saying he had lived “next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly, I just don’t understand it.”
Police have taken four people into custody, including three men and one woman. None of the suspects were on a police watchlist. Police Commissioner Bush noted that a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder and will appear in Christchurch court tomorrow.
Bush also asked all mosques in New Zealand to close their doors for safety reasons, urging “anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go. To close your doors until you hear from us again.” Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, was also placed under lockdown initially.
Police found multiple firearms at both locations, as well as two improvised explosive devices attached to a vehicle that were going to be detonated as part of the attack. Police successfully disabled one device, and authorities are still working on the other.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the shooting a well-planned terrorist attack in a press conference, saying the shooters had “extremist views” that have “no place in New Zealand or the world.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the attackers was an Australian-born citizen, and described the man as an “extremist right-wing, violent terrorist.” Media reports identified the 28-year-old man as Brenton Tarrant.
The Australian man live-streamed the attack on Facebook for 17 minutes, and the footage shows a man walking into a mosque and opening fire. New Zealand authorities “strongly urge that the (video) link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”
On a now-deleted Twitter account, the attacker posted a 74-page manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement,” just before the attack. The right-wing extremist outlined his motives for the attack, saying he wanted to “create an atmosphere of fear” and to “incite violence” against Muslims.
He added he had been planning the attack for two years, but only picked Christchurch as the location three months ago. He wrote, “I only arrived to New Zealand to live temporarily whilst I planned and trained, but I soon found out that New Zealand was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the West.”
He also gave details about his upbringing in the manifesto, writing, “I am just a regular white man, from a regular family, who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.” “My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues.”
He went on to describe himself as an “ethno-nationalist” and a “fascist,” confirming, “Yes. It is a terrorist attack.”