At least 49 people were killed in a mass shooting at two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques during Friday prayers. 48 people are being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital following the attack, some of whom are in critical condition.
None of the suspects apprehended were on a watch list prior to the massacre. One man has been arrested and charged with murder, while two other armed suspects remain in custody in connection with the shooting. Two explosive devices attached to a vehicle were located and disarmed.
One of the attackers said they were Australian-born, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted in a press conference. A man his late 20s claiming responsibility for this horrific act of violence shared a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto, in which he self-identified as a white Australian and a racist, to Twitter and 8chan, as the New York Times reports. The shooter name-dropped popular gaming YouTuber PewDiePie immediately prior to the shooting.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern stated, as per CNN.
“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,” she continued. After condemning the horrific killings, Ardern added:
Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice, the place they actively came to and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities that they loved and who loved them. It was a place that many came to for its safety, a place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion.
Ardern says they do not believe there are more suspects at large, but the national security threat level has been increased from low to high following the Islamophobic act.
The man who shared the manifesto said he would live-stream the shooting, and a 17-minute video of what is believed to be the massacre was shared on social media websites including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. These platforms are struggling to take down the video, as some users are cropping the image and using other loopholes so the graphic content can slip past safeguards.
Len Peneha, a neighbor of the mosque, witnessed the attack. He told the AP:
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”