In the worst ever terror attack in New Zealand, multiple gunmen carried out indiscriminate shootings at two mosques here during the Friday prayers, leaving 49 people dead and at least 48 wounded, besides giving a scare to the Bangladesh cricket team which had a narrow escape.
Using automatic weapons, the gunmen, four of whom have been taken into custody, launched a “well-planned” attack on the mosques when devotees had assembled for the weekly prayers, local media reported.
According to the police, 41 people were killed at Deans Avenue mosque and seven at Linwood mosque while one injured died in hospital, The Guardian reported.
Several guns have been recovered from both mosques, it said quoting the police.
Two explosive devices were found on two vehicles at the scene, one of which was defused.
One of the perpetrators — a white man apparently in the age group of 30 or 40 – live streamed his gruesome act for about 17 minutes.
In the video, he can be seen entering a mosque and shooting indiscriminately with an automatic weapon.
He can also 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, The New Zealand Herald reported.
The shooter returned to a station wagon to get more ammunition, before re-entering the mosque to check for survivors.
A man, in his late 20s, has been charged with murder and will appear in Christchurch court tomorrow, The Guardian reported.
Two others arrested at the scene with guns are being investigated, it said, quoting the police.
A fourth person arrested may have had nothing to do with the attack.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that at least one attacker is an Australian citizen.
Condemning the terror strike, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a “terror attack” and said it “appears to have been well planned”.
She asserted that New Zealand “will not and cannot be shaken” by this attack.
“You may have chosen us but we reject and condemn you,” the New Zealand Prime Minister asserted in a message to the perpetrators of the attack.
“We were chosen (because) we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, (are) a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it and those values,” she said.
Christchurch hospital alone is currently treating 48 people, from young children to adults, with gunshot wounds.
The injuries range from critical to minor, according to David Meates, the Chief Executive of Canterbury District Health Board.
The Bangladesh cricket team members, who are here for the third Test match with New Zealand, had a narrow escape as they were barred from getting off their bus when they arrived to offer prayers at the Al Noor mosque which was under attack.
They ran through Hagley Park to the Oval, Cricinfo reported.
The players were visibly distraught and were seen asking passers-by to not go any further.
In view of the attack, the third Test scheduled to start tomorrow was cancelled.
Many of the houses around the area reportedly took in unaccompanied children of the injured as the events unfolded.