Many Dead in New Zealand Shooting at Two Mosques

By Reuters

WELLINGTON—Multiple fatalities were inflicted at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, March 15, when at least one gunman opened fire on worshippers.

“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.

The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.

New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “as far as we know” multiple fatalities occurred at two mosques. Police had one person in custody but they were not sure if others were involved, and people should stay away from mosques.

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque
Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (Mark Baker/AP Photo)

Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the center of Christchurch city.

“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”

Media reported that a gunman opened fire inside a mosque in Christchurch’s Hagley Park district. There were reports of armed police at a second mosque in the suburb of Linwood.

People in center of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.

a stretcher carrying a person at a hospital
Emergency services personnel transport a stretcher carrying a person at a hospital, after reports that several shots had been fired, in central Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. (TVNZ/via Reuters TV)

Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the Al Noor mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.

The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.

“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message.

“They are shaken but good.”