UPDATE 4.27PM: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says at least 40 people have been killed and 20 injured in the mosque shootings in Christchurch on Friday.
“This can only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said in a press conference.
“While we do not have anything to believe at this stage that there were any other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage.”
She confirmed that none of the three men or the woman in custody were on New Zealand’s security watch list.
UPDATE 2.36pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush has confirmed that three men and one woman are in custody. They were apprehended by police on Frida afternoon as local authorities scoured Christchurch city following shootings at two mosques near the city centre.
He also confirmed that multiple IEDs were found attached to cars in the area, but they have now been made safe.
Families aren’t yet able to identify their loved ones killed in the attacks because both mosques are still in lockdown. Bush did not confirm how many fatalities and injuries there were, but New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier described the incident as one of the “darkest days” in the country’s history.
What we know so far:
UPDATE 2.00pm: Harrowing video shared on social media shows the moment one of the alleged gunman carried out his bloody attack on the Al Noor Mosque on Dean’s Avenue in central Christchurch. The video was live streamed on social media and appears to have been filmed on a camera strapped to his body.
The footage shows the man driving to the mosque and parking next to the building. He then goes to the back of his car where a number of semiautomatic weapons covered in writing can be seen in the boot. He walks towards the front door of the mosque he is seen raising his weapon and firing his first shot at someone in the doorway.
The confronting video shows the man walking calmly through the mosque and shooting anyone he sees. At one point he starts shooting repeatedly at people lying motionless on the ground. After circling the rooms again he leaves the mosque and fires his weapon up and down Dean’s Avenue before getting back into his car and leaving the scene.
New Zealand police say they are working to remove the footage from the internet but it has already been shared across multiple social media and news sites.
UPDATE 1.30pm: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has addressed the media following the deadly shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon.
Ardern described the incident as one of the darkest days in New Zealand history.
“Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.
“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.
“For now, my thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders, are with those who have been affected, and also with their families.
“My thoughts also to those in Christchurch, who are still dealing with an unfolding situation. The advice from police continues to be that people remain indoors. I acknowledge that that may mean that some families are separated, but please continue to listen out for information as it comes to light that’s been directly provided by the New Zealand Police with further information.
“But as I say, please remain in lockdown. We are potentially still dealing with an evolving situation. And again, as I say, across multiple sites. Please be assured, though, the police are actively managing the situation. Christchurch Hospital is dedicated to treating those who are arriving at the hospital as we speak as well.
“As soon as I leave here, I will be returning directly on a flight to Wellington. Agencies are already convening in Wellington. I will be looking to meet with them as soon as I land. It’s my expectation that once I arrive and have been briefed, I intend to speak again publicly after that point. I’m happy to take questions.”
UPDATE 12.55pm: New Zealand police have just released this statement and have confirmed multiple fatalities at two different mosques in the city, the first on Dean’s Avenue and the second on Linwood Avenue.
“Police is responding to a very serious and tragic incident involving an active shooter in central Christchurch.
“One person is in custody, however police believe there may be other offenders.
“This is an evolving incident and we are working to confirm the facts, however we can confirm there have been a number of fatalities.
“Police is currently at a number of scenes.
“We understand that there will be many anxious people but I can assure New Zealanders that police is doing all it can to resolve this incident.
“We urge New Zealanders to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
“We are still working to resolve this incident and we continue to urge Christchurch resident to stay inside.
“We ask all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting these premises until further notice.”
Local media in New Zealand are at the scene of the mosque shooting and are talking to worshippers who were inside praying when the gunman opened fire. Witnesses have described the scenes of calm before gunshots began to ring out. One man told The Guardian the shooter systematically worked his way through the different rooms in the mosque shooting anyone he could.
Another man told Stuff.co.nz he stayed low to the ground and managed to crawl to a window to escape.
UPDATE 12.27pm: There are reports fresh shots have been fired in Christchurch city. According to The Guardian, police have been told to attend an active shooter situation at another location in Christchurch.
Police have also confirmed a bomb has been found in a car on Strickland Street in Christchurch. The Guardian reports the bomb is located inside a beige Subaru that has crashed on Strickland Street, about 4 kilometres from the Al Noor Mosque where the shooting took place.
1/2 A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter.Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off…
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
EARLIER 12.00pm: There are reports that six people have been killed in a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch as police launch a city-wide man hunt for the shooter.
All Christchurch schools have been put under lockdown and police have told everyone near central Christchurch to remain indoors.
Local media reports a man walked into the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch with an automatic rifle and shot people. According to the New Zealand Herald, a second gunman has been seen near Linwood Masjid mosque, although police are yet to confirm this.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a statement: “A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter. Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.
“Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice. Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice.
“Police thanks the public for their cooperation and will provide further updates to keep residents informed.”
Mohan Ibrahim was inside the mosque when the shooting occurred and described to the New Zealand Herald running for his life to escape the gunman. He was one of 200 people inside the mosque when gunshots started ringing through the air.
“At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running.”
He said many people had been killed and many others 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.”