49 People have been killed in shootings at New Zealand mosques
At least 49 people are reported to have been killed and a further 20 have been injured in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Shots were fired at Al Noor Mosque in Deans Avenue in the city centre before being reported in Linwood Mosque three miles away. At around 0500 GMT, police placed the city on lockdown as four people were arrested.
Three men and a woman have been taken into custody as multiple explosive devices were found attached to cars around Christchurch, and one man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, and is set to appear in courts in Christchurch tomorrow.
New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said in an evening press conference that 41 people (one believed to be a five-year-old child) had been killed at Al Noor Mosque while Linwood Mosque had seven confirmed fatalities. A further victim died while at Christchurch Hospital.
Bush also said in a press conference that two explosive devices were discovered on vehicles around the city, saying that one had been defused and the other was in the process of being defused. The commissioner also urged Muslims to avoid going to mosques for the time being, saying: "close your doors until you hear from us again."
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern did not hesitate to describe the shooting as a terrorist attack, describing the country's worst mass shooting in history as "one of New Zealand’s darkest days".
"You may have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you," Ardern said, condemning the ideology behind the attack, while Australian prime minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the suspects in what he described as a "rightwing extremist attack" was Australian.
Police have also urged people not to share "distressing" footage of the attacks, 17 minutes of which seem to have been livestreamed to social media. The clip, which seems to have been recorded via a helmet camera of one of the gunmen, shows the man opening fire on the mosque before driving away.
Before the shooting, a man who appeared to be the gunman posted links to a white nationalist manifesto on Twitter and the online forum 8chan, while on 8chan he also posted a link to a Facebook page, where he said that the shooting would be live streamed.
Identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian in his manifesto, the suspected gunman listed his white nationalist heroes, and openly described himself as a fascist. "For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist," he said in the manifesto.
Among the people worshipping at the Al Noor mosque were the Bangladesh national cricket team, who were in New Zealand for a test match. Tariq Iqbal Khan, part of that team, tweeted confirming that the team were in the mosque at the time of the shooting.
"Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers," Khan said on Twitter.
New Zealand's threat level has been raised from low to high, while police have said that none of their suspects were on their terror watchlists.