40 people lost their lives and at least 20 others were wounded when gunmen opened fire at two mosques here on Friday, confirmed New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Police have taken four people into custody over the gruesome shootings, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming that at least one attacker is an Australian citizen.
“We were chosen (because) we represent diversity, kindness compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,” CNN quoted Ardern as saying.
“We utterly condemn and reject you,” she reinforced while referring to the attackers and the crime committed by them.
She announced that none of the four suspects, currently in police custody, figured on security watch lists before Friday’s attacks.
Echoing the police’s statements, Ardern also confirmed that improvised explosive devices, found attached to the gunmen’s cars at the crime scene, were defused by the New Zealand military. She refrained from commenting on whether the perpetrators had planned a suicide attack.
One of the mosques has been identified as the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, where a perpetrator – a white man in his 30’s or 40’s – entered the mosque and started shooting indiscriminately with an automatic weapon. The Muslim community had congregated for their Friday prayers when the gruesome incident took place.
While security has been beefed up outside all mosques across New Zealand, the police have asked all mosques “nationally to shut their doors”, advising people from refraining to visit “these premises until further notice”.
Meanwhile, distraught parents scurried to establish the safety of their children, who had taken to the streets to protest against inaction over climate change. The lockdown of schools across Christchurch has since been lifted.
Bangladeshi players, on the other hand, narrowly escaped the incident at the Al Noor mosque as they were barred from getting off their bus as soon as they arrived to offer prayers. They ran through Hagley Park to the Oval, reports Cricinfo, as the final test between Bangladesh and the Kiwis stands cancelled. The players were visibly distraught and were seen asking passers-by to not go any further.
Authorities are still trying to establish facts as the local community has united against the apparent hate crime. Many of the houses around the area reportedly took in unaccompanied children of the injured as the events unfolded.
One of the perpetrators allegedly livestreamed 17 minutes of the shooting, where he can be seen entering the mosque and shooting at those congregated. He can be seen blocking the hallway so that nobody escapes. He stopped several times to reload, before exiting the mosque through the front door and shooting at the cars passing by, reports The New Zealand Herald. The shooter returned to a stationwagon to get more ammunition, before re-entering the mosque to check for survivors.
“Police are aware there is 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,” New Zealand Police tweeted.