This is an update: Police have confirmed that 49 people were killed following the shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that four people were taken into custody. Police said one of the suspects, a man in his 20s, has been “charged with murder.”
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Following the fatal shootings, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it is “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said: “This afternoon, we are dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events in the Christchurch-Canterbury area. They involve an active shooter. They involve multiple fatalities. We have one person in custody; we are unsure if there are other people. The multiple fatalities are, as far as we know, at two locations.”
PM Ardern said at a Friday afternoon news conference that “what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” She added that the victims “have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”
The Associated Press interviewed an eyewitness who lives next door to Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, who said he saw a man dressed in black enter the at about 1:45 PM Friday. The eyewitness heard “dozens of shots,” and then a crowd of people were running in terror from the mosque, as did the gunman, who dropped his weapon and escaped.
“I saw dead people everywhere,” the eyewitness told the AP. “There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque. It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Police asked local residents to stay indoors and ordered all mosques around the country should shut their doors until further notice.
The shooter live-streamed the entire attack from a bodycam.