BREAKING: 49 people confirmed dead in the Christchurch mosque massacre

Publish Date
Friday, 15 March 2019, 2:20PM

KEY POINTS:

  • 49 killed in 'terrorist' shootings at two Christchurch mosques
  • Seven died at Linwood, 41 at mosque near Hagley Park and one in hospital
  • Four people arrested, including one woman
  • One of the gunmen livestreamed shooting at Al Noor Mosque in chilling 17-min video

Forty-nine people have been killed and 48 people hurt after gunmen stormed two Christchurch mosques in the worst terror attack on New Zealand soil.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the shootings were "abhorrent". At the Deans Ave mosque 41 people were killed, while seven had died at the Linwood mosque. A 49th person had died in hospital.

One man in his late 20s had been charged with murder so far, Bush said.

Speaking about the victims Bush said: "Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones.

"We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today."

Bush said police recovered a lot of firearms from both the Linwood Avenue and Deans Ave shooting scenes.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said the death toll was 40. She said a further 20 people were seriously injured, while Christchurch Hospital has just confirmed 48 people suffered gunshot wounds.

Ardern said it was an "unprecedented" situation and described it as a terrorist attack.

"It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects' vehicles have been found and they have been disarmed."

Those in custody had not been on any terrorism watch list: "It's not a matter of someone having slipped under the radar," Ardern said.

"There are currently four individuals who have been apprehended but three are connected to this attack and are currently in custody, one of which has publicly stated that they were Australian born.

"These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.

"While we do not have any reason to believe at this stage that there are other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage.

Ardern said it was obvious the attacks had been planned for some time. Three people were arrested in relation to the attacks, while one other was arrested separately.

Ardern said she could not give any more detail about the alleged offenders.

An Australian-born suspect had been in New Zealand "a relatively short time".

She said she was asking questions about them, including access to firearms, of her officials.

The National Security Threat Level had been lifted from low to high.

The Defence Force was transporting more police to Christchurch.

Ardern said New Zealand was a place of safety where they raise their families.

"Those values will not and cannot be shaken," she said.

"This is a place where people should feel secure."

Four arrested after massacres at mosques

Gunmen opened fire at mosques in Christchurch earlier today. Four people are in custody - three men and one woman.

Bush said "there have been some absolute acts of bravery" in the arrests of the four attackers.

A number of IEDs that were attached to vehicles in Christchurch have been defused by the Defence Force.

Bush said there were multiple casualties - a "significant" amount.

"This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected."

"We don't have the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown."

He said he would not assume there aren't other attackers.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the gunmen was an Australian citizen living in New Zealand.

Morrison said he was "shocked, appalled and outraged," at the attack.

"We stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right wing, violent terrorist.

"[He] has taken the lives," he said, before correcting to: "they have stolen the lives in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders.

Morrison said the attack reminds us about the evil that is ever present and would seek to "strike us out at any time."

The lock down of schools throughout Christchurch was lifted at 5.50pm.

When asked if it was true that a person had been arrested wearing wired explosives, Bush said that person had been made safe.

"We're still working through that but we believe there was a claim but that person has been made safe."

Bush said he was aware that footage of the Al Noor Mosque shooting was on social media and police were doing everything they could to get it removed.

"It shouldn't be in the public domain."

Facebook Australia-New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said the videos have been taken down.

"New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter's Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video."

He said police did not have conclusive information about the motivation behind the shootings.

He would not call it a terrorist attack but said it did not get any more serious in this country.

"We are currently dealing with an unprecedented situation in New Zealand. It's very grave, it's very serious."

One of NZ's darkest days

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

A body has been seen lying near Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and a second gunman has been seen near Linwood Masjid mosque.

One of the gunmen broadcast live as he shot victims.

One of the gunmen is believed to be an Australian who has written a manifesto declaring his intentions.

In it, he says "it is a terrorist attack."

Ardern described the event as "extreme and unprecedented violence".

She will be flying to Wellington where she will speak with agents as soon as she lands.

"I'm not currently in a position to confirm the number of deaths or injuries," Ardern said.

"This is and will be one of New Zealand's darkest days."

Ardern looked to be struggling to keep her emotions in check as she spoke.

Bush said Police are pouring resources into the Christchurch area.

He said they were also setting up a facility so that people could get phone in and get more information about their loved ones as a priority.

Bush said Defence Force aircrafts in Wellington were ready to fly more resources into the area.

"I want to assure the public we are doing everything we can to make sure there is no more harm to their communities."

There was no indication there were other shooters at large.

The multiple fatalities were at two locations - a mosque at Deans Ave and one at Linwood Ave.

St John said there have been multiple fatalities.

People suffered injuries ranging from minor through to critical gun shot wounds.

A number of helicopter and road ambulances are on standby to provide support, including transporting patients to other ICUs around the country.

St John has deployed resources from throughout the country to provide cover for the next few days.

A Christchurch Star reporter saw a dead body lying close at Palazzo Lane near Al Noor Mosque.

The body has been covered with clothing.

A witness has seen a child lying in the middle of Deans Ave and another man has told the Herald his relative was shot inside the mosque.

It is understood the shooting at the mosque lasted six minutes and that the shooter may have returned to his car to retrieve more ammunition before opening fire again.

Police hold a suspect down on the ground. Photo / Kurt Bayer

A large cordon has blocked off Strickland St around 3km from the Hagley mosque shooting.

A local man said a white van is at the centre of police focus. They believe a bomb is suspected to be inside.

The police bomb disposal unit is at the scene.

A Christchurch woman has reported watching a man being arrested on Harrow Street.

Images captured of the scene show a man being apprehended by a police officer. Two police cars are stationed nearby, blocking off the street.

"I saw people drop dead in front of me."

A man, who would only be known as Nour, who crawled to safety amid the carnage of the shooting has told Christchurch Star of what happened.

Nour in the front row of prayers when the gunman came in.

"First he shot people outside. Then he came in the front," he said.

He heard the gun being reloaded about three times.

The gunman began shooting in all directions.

"I saw people drop dead in front of me. I was crawling to get away."

"It was hitting the walls," he said.

Nour crawled across the floor of the mosque to a window that had been broken by others as they fled and jumped trough it.

He jumped over a neighbouring wall. He ran around the block and he could still hear shooting.

Mohan Ibrahim described to the Herald running for his life to escape the gunman. He was one of 200 people in Christchurch's Masjid Al Noor mosque when he heard shots being fired.

"At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running."

He said there had been lots of people killed and many injured.

"I still have friends inside.

"I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven't heard from. I am scared for my friends lives."

He said there had been lots of people killed and many injured.

A man who took in people who escaped from the mosque has shared their description of the gunman.

He was white, aged in his 30s or 40s and wearing a uniform, but he had not been able to ascertain what the uniform was, Oakford Close resident Robert Weatherhead said.

"[They said] 'he had a lot of magazines strapped to his legs'," Weatherhead said.

A man who was in Al Noor Mosque during a shooting says it was absolutely full for noon prayers. He believed many have been killed.

A woman told the Christchurch Star she lay in her car near the mosque as four to five men came running towards her.

She was unsure if they were gunmen.

Moments earlier she heard what she thought was gunfire.

"When the noise got louder I saw four or five men running. I put my seat down and lay down so they wouldn't see me.

"I didn't think I'd live to see this happening in my country," she said.

A woman told the Christchurch Star she lay in her car near the mosque as four to five men came running towards her.

She was unsure if they were gunmen. Moments earlier she heard what she thought was gunfire.

"When the noise got louder I saw four or five men running. I put my seat down and lay down so they wouldn't see me.

"I didn't think I'd live to see this happening in my country," she said.

A young man, who lives near Al Noor Mosque, said he was sleeping when he woke to 20-40 gun shots and a man running into his house with a bullet wound 3 inches into his leg.

The man with his three flat mates, who live on Brockworth Pl, called an ambulance and applied pressure on the victim's leg.

The victim told the man that he had just been at the mosque, multiple shots were fired and fled the scene immediately looking for assistant .

He said the victim didn't see the armed gunman, but heard bullets ringing around.

He said that the victim told him he was almost shot in the stomach.

"I didn't realise something of this maginitue could happen in New Zealand," the man said.

He said the ambulance never arrived so one of his flat mates drove the victim to hospital.

Police at the shooting in Christchurch. Photo / Supplied

Second shooting at mosque in Linwood

A second shooting happened at a mosque in the Linwood area of the city.

One Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.

Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots around 1.45pm.

A well known Muslim local chased the shooters and fired two shots at them as they sped off.

He was heard telling police officers he was firing in "self defence".

"They were in a silver Subaru," he told police.

Mark Nichols, manager of Premium Tyres and Auto in Linwood, said he a gunman ran past his shop around 45 minutes ago.

He heard five gunshots, and he believed the activity was centred around the nearby Linwood Masjid mosque.

He saw two injured people carried on stretchers past his shop. Both appeared to be alive.

"I seen a guy with a gun running up the road. He's been firing about five shots, I think we heard," Nichols said.

"It might have been a shotgun. I didn't get a good luck at it, I just cleared off.

"Apparently there have been people in the mosque shot, and a police officer's been shot too.

"It's not very good, we're in shutdown mode now. It's all cordoned off."

Christchurch resident Mandy Rooney was trapped in her car within metres of a mosque in Bishopdale.

She said she tried to get out of the car to see what was going on but was ordered back into her vehicle by armed police.

"They have their guns up and are walking around scoping through them," she said.

Rooney said no one was being allowed to move from the street.

"It is chaos. People have been trying to drive away and are just crashing into other vehicles."

A witness told the Herald he had seen a body in a carpark at Papanui High School.

Papanui High School, which is north of where both incidents occurred, is in lockdown.

The receptionist said staff were hiding under their desks, and she could not comment on any activity nearby.

A man wearing military clothing has been arrested outside Papanui High School.

Injured people are still being rushed to Christchurch Hospital.

There is a large police presence at the hospital with many armed officers.

The New Zealand National Front has said it the events in Christchurch do not involve the organisation, nor its members.

"The National Front does not condone or agree with this type of wanton murder of innocent people regardless of their religious beliefs.

"We believe in freedom of speech and freedom to worship whatever god you chose."

The University of Canterbury is in lock down. They say people are to stay inside until police give clearance.

Two Christchurch shopping malls are also in lockdown.

Shoppers and retail assistants at Westfield Riccarton and Northlands Mall are being told no one is allowed to leave.

The city centre is like a ghost town as police hunt the shooters.

Heavily armed police, including special units, are speeding around the empty streets with lights and sirens wailing.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said her message to people is to stay away from the central city.

"If you are in the city please stay in the building you are in," she said.

"All Council buildings are in lock down and they're urging all central city building owners to do the same, until advised by the Police they can leave."

"I heard at least 20 [gunshots]"

Benjamin Jellie said he ran outside when he heard gunshots.

"I saw people jumping over the back fence of the mosque into Oakward Close. I heard at least 20 [gunshots]."

"I heard about eight at the start and then it went quiet for about 30 seconds or a minute and then it started again. I heard about eight more and then there was another minute and another eight," Jellie said.

"Those coming over the fence, all adults and including at least three men, were screaming and crying."

He believed the injured were all conscious.

The injured were very quiet, Jellie said.

The Bangladesh cricket team was at the mosque for Friday prayer when the shooting started.

 

Armed police can be seen on central Christchurch streets. Photo / Jacob Savage

A taxi driver in Deans Ave told Newstalk ZB that a jogger in the park said shots had been fired inside the mosque.

"Police and ambulance are coming from every direction".

Deans Ave has been closed between Moorhouse Avenue and Riccarton Road. Road users are advised to avoid the area.

In Cathedral Square, at the climate protest a police officer asked for everyone to make their way home immediately.

The police officer said there had been an incident and students should go straight home.

The public should not attend Christchurch Hospital unless it's an emergency, a Canterbury DHb spokeswoman said.

"All appointments have been cancelled this afternoon, and no staff or patients are to enter or leave the building."

Police confirmed at 2.41pm that all Christchurch schools had been placed into lockdown.

St Margaret's College told parents not to contact the school as "the phones are currently closed".

"All students are safe and those who are on the Climate Strike have been taken to a safe area by the staff accompanying them."

Air New Zealand is offering flexibility to customers booked to fly to or from Christchurch today, in the wake of the shooting.

The airline will waive any fare change fees, should people need to make alternative travel arrangements.

Air New Zealand is also offering its support to Emergency Services managing the incident in Christchurch.

HEAD TO THE NZHERALD FOR LIVE UPDATES.

 

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.