A gunman - believed to be a 28-year-old Australian - has opened fire at a mosque in New Zealand, shooting at children and reportedly killing at least 27 people. Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots from his weapons including a semi-automatic shotgun and a rifle at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island.
The gunman - who identified himself on Twitter as Brenton Tarrant - live-streamed the mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque, which happened about 1.30pm (11.30am AEDT) as Friday prayers were underway.
A video seen by Daily Mail Australia shows the man firing multiple shots at dozens of people as they try to flee. A suspect is in custody but it is unclear whether it is the gunman.
The suspected gunman posted a 87-page manifesto to Twitter before the killings, describing them as a ’terrorist attack’.
People were also reportedly shot at the nearby Linwood Masjid mosque.
There are also reports of another shooting outside Christchurch Hospital and that a bomb was found in a car three kilometres from the mosque.
Police have urged people near the area to stay indoors and report suspicious behaviour, describing the incident as ’critical’. Daily Mail Australia is waiting for New Zealand Police to verify the shooter’s identity.
AUTHORITIES RESPOND TO THE ATTACKS
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there were multiple casualties as a result of shootings at two mosques and at Christchurch Hospital.
He urged Muslims in New Zealand not to go to mosques today.
Mr Bush said one person was in custody.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacks were ’one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.
’My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders, are with those who have been affected, and also with their families,’ she said.
’My thoughts are also to those in Christchurch, who are still dealing with an unfolding situation.’Ms Ardern said the shootings were ’an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. This is not who we are.
’The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home. They should be safe here. The person who has perpetuated this violent act against them, they have no place in New Zealand society.’
SICKENING ATTACK SHARED ONLINE
The gunman entered the Al Noor Mosque on Friday during afternoon prayers and opened fire.
The distressing video streamed on his Facebook shows the 28-year-old man firing more than 100 shots at those inside.
His guns were scrawled with the names of past mass killers and cities where the shootings occurred.
The gunman’s rampage began when he got into his car wearing military-style body armour and a helmet saying ’let’s get this party started’.
He then drove to the mosque listening to folk music and military tunes before parking in an alley around the corner.After retrieving one of at least six guns stored in his car, he walked up to the front door and began firing indiscriminately at worshippers inside.
The gunman stormed inside and fired quick bursts and anyone he saw. One wounded man tried to crawl away but was shot again after he calmly reloaded.
He fired into crowds of huddled worshipers, sometimes not even looking where he was shooting, reloading numerous times.
When then sound of his gun stopped between magazines, the moaning of wounded people could be heard until the shots began again.
Several times he stood over wounded men, calmly reloaded his gun, then shot them multiple times to make sure they were dead.
THE SHOOTER’S MANIFESTO
In the shooter’s manifesto shared to Twitter he mentions being inspired by other shooters including Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Oslo, Norway in 2011.
He said he ’disliked’ Muslims and hated those who had converted to the religion, calling them ’blood traitors’.
The shooter said he originally wanted to target a mosque in Dunedin, south of Christchurch, after watching a video on Facebook.
’But after visiting the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood and seeing the desecration of the church that had been converted to a mosque in Ashburton, my plans changed,’ he wrote.
’The Christchurch and Linwood mosques had far more invaders.’
The shooter said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the death of Swedish schoolgirl Ebba Akerlund, a girl who was killed in a terrorist attack in Stockholm in April 2017.
The shooter said he was a supporter of Donald Trump as a ’symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’.
He described himself as ’just a regular white man’.
He said he was born to ’working class, low-income family... who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people’.
The gunman said he carried out the massacre to ’directly reduce immigration rates to European lands’.
He said New Zealand was not his ’original choice’ for the attack but said the location would show ’that nowhere in the world was safe’.
’We must ensure the existence of our people, and a future for white children,’ he wrote.
He wrote that the shooting was an ’act of revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history’.
’For the enslavement of millions of Europeans taken from their lands by the Islamic slavers... for the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands,’ the gunman wrote.
He shared photos to his now-removed Twitter account ahead of the attacks, showing weapons and military-style equipment.’THERE WERE BODIES ALL OVER ME’
Mohammed Jama, the former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said a man with a gun entered the Christchurch Mosque about 1.40pm local time on Friday.
A man inside the mosque at the time of the shooting said there ’bodies all over me’.
Witnesses inside the mosque reported seeing 15 people being shot, including children.
A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath.
’My wife is dead,’ he said while wailing.Witness Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described one of the shooters as being white, with blond hair and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.
’The guy was wearing like an army [suit]. He had a big gun and lots of bullets. He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,’ Ahmad Al-Mahmoud told Stuff.
’They had to smash the door - the glass from the window and the door - to get everyone out.
’We were trying to get everyone to run away from this area. I ran away from the car park, jumping through the back [yard] of houses.’
Al-Mahmoud said the man was ’wearing a helmet’ and must have fired ’hundreds’ of gunshots.
Another witness said he ran behind the mosque to call the police after hearing the gun go off.
’I heard the sound of the gun. And the second one I heard, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque, rang the police.
’I saw one gun on the floor. Lots of people died and injured.’ The gunman’s rifle and magazines reportedly had the names of other shooters who had killed people at mosques written on them.
A bomb was found in a grey Subaru Legacy three kilometres from the scene of the shooting on Strickland Street, The Guardian reported.
Another witness said people had to smash windows to escape the mosque.
A second gunman was reportedly seen near another mosque in Linwood and an armed police presence is there.Twenty armed police officers cleared areas in the suburb of Linwood, and led about five men with their hands on their heads out of a building in the area.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the shooting was a ’serious and evolving situation with an active shooter’.
’Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,’ he said.
’Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice. Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice.’Police thanks the public for their cooperation and will provide further updates to keep residents informed.’
The shooting happened near Cathedral Square where thousands of children were protesting for climate change action.
The protesting children have been told to go home to ensure their safety.
Police officers were also seen at sports ground Hagley Park and at Christchurch Hospital.
New Zealand Police said armed officers have been deployed in the area.
A business owner near the mosque said a man who fled the area told him the shooting happened inside.
A witness said they heard at least 50 gunshots and saw people lying on the ground.
Another witness said he saw a car chasing two people from outside the mosque along Deans Avenue.
He said the people in the car began shooting at the two people.Christchurch Boys’ and Girls’ high schools have both been placed into lockdown.
Parents of students at Christchurch Girls’ High School were sent a text message telling them the lockdown was ’not an exercise’.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her planned events for Friday afternoon in light of the shooting.
The Canterbury District Health Board has activated its mass casualty plan and the city council has placed its central city buildings into lockdown.
Only one per cent of New Zealand’s population of five million are Muslim, according to government statistics.