At least 49 people were killed and 48 others injured after gunmen opened fire during Friday prayers inside two mosques in Christchurch, the deadliest attack in New Zealand’s recent history, news reports say.
A 28-year-old man in military fatigue was arrested near a school on Harrow Street. He has been charged with murder and was due to appear before the Christchurch district court on Saturday.
The gunman, believed to be an Australian citizen living in New Zealand, live-streamed the shooting. In his manifesto, he made his intentions clear by calling it a “terrorist attack.”
Three others, including a woman, were arrested later.
The gunmen killed 41 people at Al Noor mosque in Deans Avenue and seven at Hagley mosque in Linwood Avenue. One of the injured died in hospital.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it one of New Zealand’s darkest days of extreme and unprecedented violence.
A witness, Nour, told Christchurch Star how he escaped the gunman inside the Al Noor mosque by crawling across the floor towards a broken window and jumping off.
The gunman first shot people outside the mosque before targeting those inside.
Another witness told New Zealand Herald he was among some 200 people attending Friday prayers at Al Noor mosque.
As the firing started, he ran for his life along with many others. He is now concerned about the fate of his friends who were with him during the prayers. He has not heard from them since the shooting.
A man who escaped the shooting described the attacker as a white man in his 30s or 40s wearing a uniform with a lot of magazines strapped to his legs.
The second shooting happened around 1.45pm at the mosque in Linwood Avenue.
Gunshots were heard for minutes. Suddenly, a local Muslim fired two shots in self-defence and the gunmen sped off in a car.
Throughout the day, the city was in lock-down as the bomb squad was defusing improvised explosive devices attached to some vehicles across the city.
Police and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel urged residents to stay indoors until further instruction.