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NEW ZEALAND HAS been left reeling today after shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch left at least 49 people dead.

One man has been charged with murder and is due to appear before court tomorrow morning New Zealand time. 

We covered all the updates as they developed this morning.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • At least 40 people have died after shootings at two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayers.
  • Gunmen entered a mosque and started shooting indiscriminately, witnesses reported.
  • Police have arrested three men and a woman, but have warned there could be other attackers at large.
  • Police commissioner Mike Bush has confirmed a number of improvised explosive devices attached to vehicles have been made safe.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.

Eyewitnesses have described victims being shot at close range, with women and children also believed to be among those killed. 

A Palestinian man who was in one of the mosques said he saw someone being shot in the head.

“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds it started again. It must have been an automatic – no one could pull a trigger that quick,” the man, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.

“Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood,” he said, adding that he joined the fleeing crowd and managed to escape.

It is believed that a shooter streamed his attack on Facebook Live, but this has not been officially confirmed. 

According to analysis from AFP, the video appears to be genuine. 

New Zealand police described it as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.

A manifesto had also been posted online on accounts linked to the same Facebook page, suggesting the attack was racially motivated.

A social media account had also posted a number of pictures of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.

Another witness, Mohan Ibrahim, told the New Zealand Herald that at first they thought it was an “electric shock” but then people started to run. 

“I still have friends inside,” he said. “I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven’t heard from. I am scared for my friends’ lives.”

Eyewitnesses have said that the attack at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch lasted around 20 minutes, with the gunman going from room to room.

One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying when he heard shooting — and then saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.

Another man said he saw children being shot.

“There were bodies all over,” he said.

An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand that he heard shots fired and four people were lying on the ground, with “blood everywhere”.

mosque Masjid Al Noor mosque Source: Google Maps

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving a press conference on the attacks.

The New Zealand Herald is streaming it live here.

Posted by on Thursday, 22 August 2019

So far, Adern described what happened as a “terrorist attack” that was “well planned”. 

She said that New Zealand was attacked the country “represents diversity”, and now the threat level has been raised from low to high.

Ardern added that the attackers were not on terror watchlists.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that an Australian citizen was among the four people arrested.

In a series of tweets, he described to the attacker as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”. 

“Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence,” he said.

A Guardian reporter at the scene of the Linwood mosque has been speaking to Hassan (29), a Sri Lankan who has lived in New Zealand for six months.

He said the shooter was screaming and firing his gun wildly in every direction.

“I thought New Zealand was a safe, peaceful country for everyone,” he said. “I came here because I knew there were no wars. Police told me ‘I am sorry, this is the first time this has ever in this country.’ I don’t know who is dead or alive. I am waiting.”

Here’s more from Ardern. She confirms the four arrested weren’t on terror watchlists.

She says we can expect an update from the police commissioner in the next half hour.

There are currently 48 people receiving treatment in hospital, with 20 seriously injured, Sky News is reporting.

Photos coming in from the scenes show a heavy police presence, and stunned people left reeling from the attack.

New Zealand Mosque Shooting Source: Mark Baker/PA Images

New Zealand Mosque Shooting Source: Mark Baker/PA Images

New Zealand Mosque Shooting Source: Mark Baker/PA Images

NEW ZEALAND-CHRISTCHURCH-SHOOTING Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The Bangladesh cricket team are currently in New Zealand to play a series of matches.

They were reportedly on their team bus on the way to one of the mosques for Friday prayers when the shooting started.

Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “Entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”

Player Mushfiqur Rahim also posted: “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque. We (were) extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again….pray for us.”

Police had earlier said four people were arrested. 

But in her press conference, Ardern said three. It is not immediately clear why this number has changed. 

More eyewitness accounts here.

Len Peneha told Sky News that he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of gunshots.

He said: “There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque.

“I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.

I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly.

The Australian Prime Minister has said flags will fly at half mast out of respect and in condolence with those who died today.

Christchurch remains in lockdown this evening, and mosques around the country have been told to close after the attacks.

Of the 40 confirmed deaths so far, 30 were at the Masjid Al Noor mosque.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is travelling to the city this evening. 

Separately, as a precaution, New Zealand police have carried out a controlled explosion on suspicious bags on a street in the centre of Auckland.

Absolutely nothing as of yet to link this incident with the Christchurch attacks. 

One of the alleged attackers – referred to as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist” by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

This suspect appears to have posted a 74-page manifesto on Twitter and on the online forum 8chan, the Huffington Post reported.

In these, he is said to have declared his hatred for Muslim immigrants in Europe and expressed admiration for extremist movements in the US. 

One of the shooters was allegedly livestreaming on Facebook as he shot a number of people at one of the mosques.

Analysis from AFP have suggested the video is genuine.

Here’s what Facebook has had to say about it: “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act.

New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we removed both the shooter’s Facebook account and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his sympathies for New Zealand today and said Australia stood with its neighbour after this atrocity.

This statement from a senator in the north-east Australian province of Queensland takes a different view.

Fraser Anning said: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.

Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators.

The planned press conference from Police Commissioner Mike Bush has been pushed back to 8am Irish time.

We’ll bring you the updates when he starts speaking.

Just to give you an idea of the size of the city here.

Christchurch is home to around 375,000 people, and the mosques are located either side of the city centre.

christchurch Source: Google Maps

To some Irish reaction now.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan – who is in Japan for St Patrick’s Day – said her thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the “senseless and truly shocking events in Christchurch”.

Chief Imam of the Islamic Centre of Ireland, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, said: “We must unite against all forms of terrorism.”

A statement has just been issued by David Meates, the chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board.

He said: “Forty-eight patients, ranging from young children to adults with gunshot wounds are being treated at Christchurch Hospital. Injuries range from critical to minor.  Additional patients with gunshot wounds presented to other health facilities in the community.

Around 200 family members are on site awaiting news of their loved ones. Together with police we are providing support to these people.

Unless it’s essential, we ask that people don’t come to visit patients Christchurch Hospital, as we are trying to reduce the numbers of people on the hospital site.

Meates also said that once the physical health of victims is cared for, provisions will be made to focus on the “psychosocial wellbeing of our wider Canterbury community”.

Irish rugby legend Ronan O’Gara, who coaches with the local rugby team Crusaders, has also tweeted support for those affected by the shootings.

In Australia, New South Wales Police has issued a statement and said “there is no ongoing or specific threat to any mosque or place of worship in Sydney or across New South Wales”.

However, police have increased patrols and have reached out to community and religious leaders in the wake of the Christchurch attack.

For context on the comments made by that Australian senator, he received just 19 votes but got in when a competitor was disqualified.

Another eyewitness has described a “peaceful, calm and quiet” scene at the Masjid Al Noor mosque as Friday prayers were in progress.

A man identified as Ramzan told reporters: “As it is when the sermon starts, you could hear a pin drop.

It started in the main room… I was in the side room, so I didn’t see who was shooting but I saw that some people were running out to my room where I was in. I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping.

Posted by on Thursday, 22 August 2019

Police Commissioner Mike Bush is speaking now.

The death toll is now 49 people. 

“I would like to add that, so far, one person – a male in his late 20s – has been charged with murder and should appear in the Christchurch court tomorrow morning,” Commissioner Bush says. 

“Three other people were apprehended. We believe one who was armed at the scene had nothing to do with the incident. The other two… we’re working to understand their involvement,” he said.

We’re doing everything we can to keep the community safe. We’ve had no other reports since this incident.

Bush adds: “This is an evolving situation. We will continue to bring you as much information as we possibly can.”

Police Commissioner Mike Bush also praises the action of officers to apprehend one of the alleged attackers.

On the issue of watchlists, he says no agency had information about the suspects.

He says he’d been in contact with Australian officials, and they had no information either. 

Bush says he’ll work to ensure law enforcement didn’t miss anything, but doesn’t have named individuals they are currently seeking in relation to the crimes. 

He says that he can’t comment whether the same person committed the shootings at both mosques, and won’t confirm the name of the individual when asked. 

mike bush

On the issue of IEDs on vehicles, Bush says one has been disarmed, and police are working with the defence forces to disarm another.

On the issue of the bags detonated in Auckland by authorities as a precaution, Bush says he doesn’t believe they’re a threat. 

When asked a number of different questions regarding the motive and identity of the attacker(s), Police Commissioner Bush says nothing is being ruled out at this time. 

Of the 49 now confirmed dead, 41 are said to have been at the Masjid Al Noor mosque. 

At the Linwood mosque seven were killed, while another has died from their injuries in hospital. 

To reiterate, one of the suspects that was charged will appear in court tomorrow charged with murder. 

Although – given how New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of Ireland – that court appearance could take place later today our time.

Here’s what the police commissioner said when pressed on the identity of the attacker, and if he was responsible for both mosque shootings.

“Look, I’d love to go into that detail but a person has been charged,” Bush said. “For me to go into details of who did what now would not be proper.”

More reaction from around the world.

European Council President Donald Tusk said: “The brutal attack in Christchurch will never diminish the tolerance and decency that New Zealand is famous for.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her “deepest condolences” to the people of New Zealand.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it a “deplorable act”. 

President Michael D Higgins has also issued a statement responding to the attacks.

He said: “The attacks on mosques in New Zealand will have appalled people all over the world. 

As President of Ireland may I offer the sympathy of the people of Ireland to the families of the victims, and express the solidarity of the people of Ireland with the people of New Zealand at this time.

“This attack on innocent lives at spaces of worship for a religious community will be condemned by all those who believe in freedom and democratic values.

I have conveyed deepest sympathies on behalf of the Irish people to Prime Minister Ardern and to Governor-General Reddy.

Here’s a recap of what we know at this stage:

  • At least 49 people have died after shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
  • Dozens are being treated in hospital with at least 20 believed to have serious injuries.
  • One man in his 20s has been charged with murder and is due to appear in court on Saturday.
  • An alleged gunman is alleged to have livestreamed his attack on one of the mosques, and experts believe the video to be genuine.
  • Police are no longer warning that more attackers may be at large.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing the incidents as terrorist attacks, said it is “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. 

Footage of the alleged gunmen carrying out his attack has being shared widely on social media.

Youtube has said it is “working vigilantly to remove any violent footage”. 

Police have urged people not to share the video.

In the alleged gunman’s 73-page manifesto, he explicitly said he wanted to attack muslims.

The title of this document has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that believes European populations are being displaced in their home countries by immigrants with higher birth rates.

The manifesto said the gunman identified himself an Australia-born, 28-year-old white male from a low-income, working-class family.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has also responded to events in New Zealand.

“Ireland is with you in every way we can be,” he said.

The mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel said: “Our city has changed forever today. It is beyond belief that something like this should happen in our city and in New Zealand.

This tragedy will touch all of us. No one will be unaffected. We will all need to pull together and support each through the coming days and weeks as we come to terms with the immense loss that our city has experienced.

Posted by on Thursday, 22 August 2019

The shock of locals in Christchurch has turned to anger at those responsible for these attacks.

“It shouldn’t happen in our country,” one woman told reporters. “They should feel safe to pray.

We need to embrace each other. We need to be reaching out and checking on our neighbours, whether they’re foreign or not. There’s no tolerance for this in our society.

There have been a number of terror attacks in London in recent years. 

In a statement issued in the last few minutes by the Met Police, its national lead for counter terrorism Neil Basu said: “Our international network of UK counter terrorism officers will be ready to support our counterparts in New Zealand in responding to and investigating this appalling attack.

Today we will be stepping up reassurance patrols around mosques and increasing engagement with communities of all faith, giving advice on how people and places can protect themselves.

We’re standing together with our Muslim communities and all those shocked and horrified by this terrorist attack in New Zealand.

Sonny Bill Williams is a world-cup winner with the New Zealand rugby team and was the first muslim to line out for the All-Blacks.

In an emotional video posted on Twitter reacting to events in Christchurch, Williams said he is “deeply, deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand”. 

The Irish Embassy in New Zealand has said it is monitoring the situation.

At this stage, there is no information to suggest any Irish nationals are among the victims.

More reaction in Ireland now, and Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has said he is “deeply saddened” at this morning’s “savage attack”. 

“All of us, of whatever religious tradition, can identity with what that might mean for a congregation gathered for worship,” he said.

Responsibility for these attacks clearly rests with some violent individuals.  At another level, however, there are serious questions to be answered, including in our own society, by those who unjustly blame the entire Muslim community for the extremism of some.  It is just as unacceptable to speak and write in racist or sectarian terms against Muslims as it is to speak and write in similar terms about Christians.

“I’m 66 and I never thought in my life I would live to see something like this.”

This is what a Christchurch local had to say after helping an injured man contact his wife at the scene of one of the shootings.

Here’s the New Zealand flag flying at half mast outside its embassy in London today.

New Zealand Mosque Shootings Source: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

One eyewitness has said there were around 300 people in the Mazjid Al Noor mosque when the shooting started.

Ramzan Ali told the New Zealand Herald: “I saw people running for all the doors. 

“To get 300 people out of the doorways was not easy. Out of two doorways – because he entered through the main door, and there were two more doors on the sides.

“He just started shooting – ‘bang, bang, bang’. My cousin was sitting beside me and he got hit in the leg.”

Ali said he saw the gunman stopped and reloaded several times.

The government has received no information about any Irish citizens involved in the incident.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs told TheJournal.ie: “The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of the incident and stands ready to provide consular assistance if requested.”

In the last few minutes, New Zealand have Police have said they are attending a property in Dunedin, a city some 300km from Christchurch.

“This is a location of interest in relation to the serious firearms incident in Christchurch today,” police said.

Properties in the immediate area have been evacuated.

New Zealand Police are encouraging members of the public to register missing persons using an online portal. Through this portal, people can verify that they’re safe.

There are 25 people currently listed as reported missing today.

missing new zealand

The alleged suspect who is said to have shared his manifesto online before livestreaming the attack has been named as Brenton Tarrant.

The manifesto detailing motivations for the attack was posted on Friday morning onto a Twitter account with Tarrant’s name and the same profile image as the Facebook page that streamed the attack.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier  confirmed the attacker at the Masjid Al Noor mosque was an Australian.

“We stand here and condemn, absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” Morrison told a press conference.

One man who was in the mosque has told the BBC he survived the attack by climbing out of a window.

Mohan Ibrahim said there were “10-15 minutes” of continuous shooting.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has tweeted a video condemning the attack.

“Londoners stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch,” he says.

Back at home, Fianna Fáil has issued a statement with TD Niall Collins saying “this horrific and brutal assassination of innocent people at their place of worship is truly shocking”. 

Eyewitness accounts from the Linwood mosque have suggested one brave man tackled the gunman to the ground.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Syed Mazharuddin said: “By the time I took cover this guy came through the main entrance door and it’s a small mosque. There were about 60-70 people there.

“The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque… he saw an opportunity and pounced on (the gunman) and took his gun.

“The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled.”

After his earlier tweet, a full statement has now been issued by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

He said: “I unreservedly condemn the terrorist attacks which took place in Christchurch, New Zealand today. There can be no justification for acts of violence and discrimination based on religion or beliefs. On behalf of the Government, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of those injured and killed.

“Freedom of religious expression is a cornerstone of any functioning democracy and those rights must be guaranteed for all citizens. Ireland will continue to stand in solidarity with all the people of New Zealand.”

That’s it from us on the liveblog at the moment. 

We’ll keep you updated on the rest of the events from New Zealand throughout the day on TheJournal.ie.

Thanks for joining us.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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