A gunman broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a “manifesto” in which he denounced immigrants.
New Zealand was placed on its highest security threat level, Ardern said, adding that four people in police custody, three men and one woman, held extremist views but had not been on any police watchlists.
The visiting Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at one of the mosques when the shooting started but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
At least 40 people were killed and four were in custody after shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, AzVision.az reports citing nbcnews.com.
Authorities said while they were not aware of any other suspects, police were not making assumptions.
"This is one of New Zealand's darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. She later confirmed that 40 worshippers were dead. "Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."
Officers responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch around 1:40 p.m. Friday (8:40 p.m. Thursday ET), police said in a statement. All schools in the city were placed on lockdown, and residents were urged to remain indoors as the situation unfolded. Police had also asked all mosques in New Zealand to close to their doors.
At a news conference several hours after the shooting, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that four people — three men and a woman — were in custody and that the situation was "moving quite quickly."
"We are not aware of other people, but we cannot assume there are not others at large," Bush said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that he was advised that one of those in custody is an Australian-born citizen, and he condemned the attack "by an extremist right-wing violent terrorist."
He added that Australian authorities would also be investigating.
“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Some of those targeted may have been migrants, she said, or refugees. “They are us,” Ardern said. “The person who has perpetuated the violence against us is not.”
One suspect is in custody, police said, but cautioned that others may have been involved.
Police rushed to the central part of the city after reports of gunfire at 1:40 p.m. local time, the New Zealand Police said on its Twitter account.
Police officials have not described the scale of the shootings but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. Schools have been placed on lockdown, police said.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who has lived next door to the mosque for about five years, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semiautomatic weapon in Peneha's driveway, and continued running.
Peneha said he went into the mosque to try to help.
"I saw dead people everywhere,” he said. “There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque. "It's unbelievable nutty. I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous."
Ahmed al Mahmoud told reporters he was inside the mosque when a gunman wearing military-style clothing, including a helmet, sprayed the interior with gunfire. Al Mahmoud, whose hand was bleeding, said in a video on a Christchurch news site that he and others escaped by breaking a window in a door.
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