Mass shooting at New Zealand mosques, dozens feared killed, gunmen still at large

Christchurch, AFP | Updated : 15 March 2019, 08:29 AM
Shooting reported at mosque in Christchurch's South Island City in New Zealand, multiple casualties reported
Shooting reported at mosque in Christchurch's South Island City in New Zealand, multiple casualties reported

Armed police in New Zealand swarmed central Christchurch on Friday amid reports of a shooting at two mosques in the South Island city. The city is in lockdown, with reports of a third shooting scene and a car bomb in Strickland Street. "Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high." Local media said there were multiple casualties at one mosque and said another had been evacuated, and there were reports that members of the Bangladesh cricket team were also present at one site. One of the shooting sites, the Al Noor mosque is on Deans Avenue is 1.4 km from Hagley Oval and the other is the Linwood Masjid mosque.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said all schools in the city had been placed in lockdown in response to "a serious ongoing firearms incident". 

"Police urge anyone in central Christchurch to stay off the streets and report any suspicious behaviour," he said in a statement.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled her afternoon appointments. An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand he heard shots fired and four people were lying on the ground, with "blood everywhere".

There was no official information on casualties but the New Zealand Herald said at least one person was killed. Nearby businesses told to 'stay away from the windows'.

The Guardian reported, 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 filmed as he shot victims. One of the gunmen is believed to be an Australian who has written a 37-page manifesto declaring his intentions. In it, he says "it is a terrorist attack."

ESPN Cricinfo reporter Mohammed Isam said members of the Bangladesh cricket team, who are due to play a Test match in Christchurch on Saturday escaped from the mosque.

"They ran back through Hagley Park back to the Oval," he tweeted.

Appearing visibly distressed in the video, the team were filmed running back through Hagley Park to the Oval.

“The players are shaken up but fine. I spoke to one of them shortly after (the incident),” the team’s strength and conditioning coach Mario Villavarayen said.

“They didn’t see anything but heard gunshots. They were at the ground (Hagley Oval) and just started running.

“The coaching staff were all at the hotel. The players just started running when they heard the shots. I don’t know how many (shots) there were. This happened at about 1.45pm.”

"In response to a serious ongoing firearms incident in Christchurch all Christchurch schools have been placed into lockdown. Police urge anyone in central Christchurch to stay off the streets and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111 (sic)," the New Zealand Police tweeted.

"Please pray for the Muslim community in New Zealand. Shootings at two mosques has left 40-50 injured and multiple dead. #NZMosqueShooting (sic)," tweeted Abed A Ayoub, an activist living in DC.

This is a direct result of growing Islamophobia and xenophobia. No one should have to be afraid of going to a place of worship, including mosques (sic)," tweeted Abed A Ayoub.

First Published: Friday, March 15, 2019 07:36 AM
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