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A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Witnesses say many people have been killed in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (Photo: AP/Mark Baker)

'One of New Zealand's Darkest Days': At Least 49 Killed in Terror Attack on Christchurch Mosques

Witnesses are depicting horrifying scenes from the city of Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday following mass shootings by at least one gunman that occurred at two mosques in the city

Jon Queally

This is a developing story... Check back for updates...

Updated:

Officials in New Zealand have put the number of confirmed victims in Friday's terrorist attack on a pair of mosques at 49 people dead with 48 wounded, many seriously. Police have detained multiple people as part of the investigation into the attack, but so far have charged just one man—described as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist"—with multiple counts of murder.

According to the New Zealand Herald:

 Australian police have identified the shooter as Brenton Tarrant - a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man. Twitter has shut down a user account in that name. 

The gunman published an online link to a lengthy "manifesto", which the Herald has chosen not to report. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an individual taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen. He called him "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist."

And the Associated Press reports:

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.

Two other armed suspects were being held in custody. Police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved.

With such a brutal and premeditated attack, coupled with a manifesto published online and the fact that the assailant filmed the massacre, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" as she mourned that many of the victims were likely migrants or refugees who came to New Zealand expecting safety and security. 

"It is clear," Ardern said, "that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack."

 

Earlier:

Witnesses are depicting horrifying scenes from the city of Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday following mass shootings by one or more gunman that occurred at two mosques in the city.

While these figures are sure to change, as of this writing there are indications that "many people" are dead with one local outlet putting the initial confirmed number of victims at nine while more recent but unconfirmed reports indicicate the deathtoll is likely to be dozens or higher. One suspect in the slayings is reported by police to be in custody, but law enforcement has said they are still looking for other assailants and are treated it as an active shooter situation.

According to the Herald, these are some of the key developments at this hour:

• Dozens feared killed as at least two gunmen open fire at two central Christchurch mosques

• City in lockdown, with reports of a third shooting scene and a car bomb in Strickland St

• One gunman, believed to be Australian, filmed as he shot victims in the mosque - and wrote a 37-page manifesto declaring his intentions

• Teen witness: "I just ran as fast as I could, over the fence to Hagley Park, I didn't stop. The gunshots sounded like pop, pop, pop...I heard over 50."

Get live updates at the Herald here; the Stuff here; and the Guardian here.

One shooting was reported at the Deans Ave mosque—where one witness who survived the massacre told a local reporter there were "bodies all over me" after a gunman came in with an automatic gun and fired dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds.

A witness who lived next door to the mosque and went to the help after the shooter fled, told the Associated Press: "I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque." He added, "It's unbelievable nutty. I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous."

A separate shooting was also reported at the Linwood, several kilometers away.

In response to reports that at least one gunman livestreamed a 17-minute portion of the shooting, journalists were among those calling on media outlets not to show any such footage and urging social media platforms to immediately shutter any of the active accounts that might be hosting the video:

The Herald reports in detail about the manifesto that was released by a person claiming to be behind the attack. According to the newspaper:

The man claiming to be the shooter identified themselves as Brenton Tarrant - a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man.

In a 74-page manifesto published online he outlined who he was and why he carried out the massacre at the Christchurch mosque.

He said there was an anti-Islamic motivation to the attack but it was anti-immigration, anti-ethnic replacement and anti-cultural replacement in origin.

Witness accounts offered a devastating narrative of what took place at the Deans Ave mosque. As Stuff, a major news outlet in the country, reports:

The former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Mohammed Jama said a man with a gun went into the Deans Ave mosque about 1.40pm on Friday.

About 300 people were inside the mosque "and he started shooting all the people."

He saw about four people injured and two people lying on the ground. He did not know if they were alive or dead. 

One man who was there at the time said a man came in with an automatic rifle and was "just killing people." He ran.

Another witness said the man was wearing a helmet.

"He had a big gun and a lot of bullets and he came through and started shooting like everyone in the mosque, like everywhere, and they have to smash the door and the glass from the window and from the small door to try and get out."

The witness said the man fired more than 50 times.

During a press conference, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the brutal attack has created "one of New Zealand's darkest days," and called the shooting "an unprecedented act of violence."


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