Mosque Massacre in New Zealand: 49 Confirmed Dead in Shootings; Four Arrested - Three Men, One Woman
March 15, 2019
One of the gunmen livestreamed shooting at Al Noor Mosque in chilling 17-min video.
Via NZ Herald:
- 49 confirmed dead in 'terrorist' shootings at two Christchurch mosques
- Seven died at Linwood, 41 at mosque near Hagley Park
- Four people initially arrested, including one woman
- Man, 28 due in court tomorrow charged with murder
- One of the gunmen livestreamed shooting at Al Noor Mosque in chilling 17-min video
Forty-nine people have been killed and 48 more hurt after mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques in the worst terror attack on New Zealand soil.
Nour Tavis said he was in the front row of the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave with his friend when the shooting started. At first they did not know what the noise was.
"Then we heard screaming ... everyone panicked," he said. "There was shooting and shooting and shooting ... people were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall."
Tavis saw someone smash a window and jump out. "It was the only way to escape," he said. "I followed."
As he and others ran for cover the shooting carried on inside the mosque.
Tavis scaled a 1.5m fence and banged on a neighbour's door — desperately hoping someone would answer and take him in to safety. They did.
"We got in there and I could see another man had been shot, I could see blood," he said.
Tavis then tried to go back to the mosque and help the injured. "There were people bleeding to death ... it was terrible."
Tavis' friend lost his wife in the attack.
Queen's message to NZ ... and Donald Trump's
The Queen has sent a message of condolence to New Zealanders: "I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.
"I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured.
"At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders."
Britain's House of Commons will also observe a minute's silence at 11am (local time) in memory of those who have been killed and injured in the attacks.
US president Donald Trump also sent a message to the people of New Zealand via Twitter after the terror attack.
"My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques," Trump tweeted.
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
"49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"
Wailing as families wait at hospital
Anxious family and friends are tonight pacing outside Christchurch Hospital, waiting for news of injured loved ones.
Wailing and crying can be heard at intervals, as people learn their friends will not be coming home.
"We just got some very bad news," said Mahdi Zougub, as his friends hugged nearby.
"We think our friend... we think he's gone. There's a lot of emotion."
Zougub, 22, said he was on his way to the Deans Ave mosque when a friend called and told him about the shooting. He wasn't allowed inside.
"I could see dead bodies. Now we are just waiting to hear the story with our missing ones. We just want to go in and find them."
Some of the shooting victims have been released and allowed to go home.
One, with a wound on his hand and another on his leg, said his phone and wallet were in the mosque and he had no way to call a taxi.
"I can't believe it," he kept saying.
"My children... I'm just relieved I didn't take them to prayer today."
Armed police remain stationed outside the hospital.
Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said it had been a tragic day.
"What we have been dealing with today is 48 gunshot wounds that were presented at Christchurch Hospital. So we have had 12 operating theatres that have been operating since this afternoon and will be continuing through until about midnight."
Patients' gunshot injuries ranged from "really critically injured" through to lesser wounds.
"With the size and scale of the operations we are doing today, many of those will end up having multiple operations over the coming days and weeks due to the nature of the wounds they have got."
Meates said a "mass casualty plan" had been activated: "It is something that we plan for and hope we never have to activate, and we have had to activate that today," he said.
"That involves us pulling in surgeons, nurses, doctors, support staff to enable us to respond, and we start deferring non-critical surgeries."
Meates said there had been over 200 family members on site at the hospital today.
"We have been working really closely with the Muslim community, police and other agencies to make sure we have the appropriate support structures in place."
The hospital would accommodate families who needed to stay there overnight.
Man, 28, charged with murder, due in court on Saturday
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the shootings were "abhorrent". At the Deans Ave mosque 41 people were killed, while seven had died at the Linwood mosque. A 49th person had died in hospital.
One man, 28, had been charged with murder and was due to appear in Christchurch District Court tomorrow morning.
"Two others remain in custody," Bush said.
"Another person was arrested earlier today however that was not related to these events."
Speaking about the victims Bush said: "Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones.
"We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today."
Bush said police recovered a lot of firearms from both the Linwood Avenue and Deans Ave shooting scenes.
None of the four people initially arrested had been on any terrorism watch, including in Australia, the Police Commissioner said.
Bush said he has "no intelligence" on a potential attack on St Patrick's Day threat that has been reported. He was not aware of today's attacks being linked to any other terrorist plots.
Police were not "actively" looking for any of the potential attackers now.
Christchurch police had a force of 1000 staff, and Bush said he would expect "everyone of them" would want to be out on the streets now. Additional officers were being flown to Christchurch from Dunedin and surrounding areas.
PM: 'Unprecedented' terrorist attack
Earlier tonight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said the death toll was 40. She said a further 20 people were seriously injured, while Christchurch Hospital has just confirmed 48 people suffered gunshot wounds.
Ardern said it was an "unprecedented" situation and described it as a terrorist attack.
"It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects' vehicles have been found and they have been disarmed."
Those in custody had not been on any terrorism watch list: "It's not a matter of someone having slipped under the radar," Ardern said.
"There are currently four individuals who have been apprehended but three are connected to this attack and are currently in custody, one of which has publicly stated that they were Australian-born.
"These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.
"While we do not have any reason to believe at this stage that there are other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage.
Ardern said it was obvious the attacks had been planned for some time. Three people were arrested in relation to the attacks, while one other was arrested separately.
Ardern said she could not give any more detail about the alleged offenders.
An Australian-born suspect had been in New Zealand "a relatively short time".
She said she was asking questions about them, including access to firearms, of her officials.
The National Security Threat Level had been lifted from low to high.
The Defence Force was transporting more police to Christchurch.
Ardern said New Zealand was a place of safety where they raise their families.
"Those values will not and cannot be shaken," she said.
"This is a place where people should feel secure."
David Meates, chief executive of Canterbury District Health Board, said Christchurch Hospital and other health clinics were treating 48 patients for gunshot wounds.
The people shot range from young children to adults and injuries ranged from critical to minor.
Twelve operating theatres were currently in use and many people would need multiple surgeries.
There was sufficient capacity and staff at Christchurch Hospital, Meates said.
Four arrested after massacres at mosques
Gunmen opened fire at mosques in Christchurch earlier today. Four people are in custody - three men and one woman.
Police Commissioner Bush said "there have been some absolute acts of bravery" in the arrests of the four attackers.
A number of IEDs that were attached to vehicles in Christchurch have been defused by the Defence Force.
Bush said there were multiple casualties - a "significant" amount.
"This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected."
"We don't have the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown."
He said he would not assume there aren't other attackers.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the gunmen was an Australian citizen living in New Zealand.
Morrison said he was "shocked, appalled and outraged," at the attack.
"We stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right wing, violent terrorist.
"[He] has taken the lives," he said, before correcting to: "they have stolen the lives in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders.
Morrison said the attack reminds us about the evil that is ever present and would seek to "strike us out at any time."
1/4 Due to the ongoing serious firearms incident in Central Christchurch Police would like to remind all parents and caregivers that schools across the city remain in lock down.There is no timeframe at this stage for when the lock down will be lifted. The children are being...— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
Police can now confirm the lock down of schools throughout Christchurch has been lifted. We would like to reassure members of the public that there is a large Police presence in the city and the safety of the community is our priority.— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
The lock down of schools throughout Christchurch was lifted at 5.50pm.
When asked if it was true that a person had been arrested wearing wired explosives, Bush said that person had been made safe.
"We're still working through that but we believe there was a claim but that person has been made safe."
Bush said he was aware that footage of the Al Noor Mosque shooting was on social media and police were doing everything they could to get it removed.
"It shouldn't be in the public domain."
Facebook Australia-New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said the videos have been taken down.
"New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter's Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video."
He said police did not have conclusive information about the motivation behind the shootings.
He would not call it a terrorist attack but said it did not get any more serious in this country.
"We are currently dealing with an unprecedented situation in New Zealand. It's very grave, it's very serious."
One of NZ's darkest days
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it "one of New Zealand's darkest days".
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 broadcast live as he shot victims.
One of the gunmen is believed to be an Australian who has written a manifesto declaring his intentions. In it, he says "it is a terrorist attack."
The Herald has chosen not to report its contents.
Ardern described the event as "extreme and unprecedented violence".
She will be flying to Wellington where she will speak with agents as soon as she lands.
"I'm not currently in a position to confirm the number of deaths or injuries," Ardern said.
"This is and will be one of New Zealand's darkest days."
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