At least 49 people are dead and more than 20 seriously injured after a “well-planned” terror attack on two New Zealand mosques Friday.
According to New Zealand police, four people were in custody in connection to the shootings in Christchurch, and one male suspect has been charged. The 28-year-old is the principal suspect, according to Police Commissioner Mike Bush. He is an Australian-born citizen who claimed responsibility for the attack.
“These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
One of the attacks appeared to be live-streamed via a bodycam—footage police were trying to remove.
“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” New Zealand Police tweeted. “We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”
Reuters has more about the suspect:
One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
“He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven at a mosque in the Linwood neighbourhood and one died in hospital, police said. Hospitals said children were among the victims.
Shortly before the attack began, an anonymous post on the discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, said the writer was going to “carry out an attack against the invaders” and included links to a Facebook live stream, in which the shooting appeared, and a manifesto.
The manifesto cited “white genocide”, a term typically used by racist groups to refer to immigration and the growth of minority populations, as his motivation.
The suspect will appear in court on Saturday.
Update: President Trump expressed his sympathies in a tweet Friday morning.
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019