One gunman live-streamed his horrific attack on a mosque which was packed with worshippers
Forty-nine people are dead and 20 are injured after mass shooting attacks at two mosques in New Zealand, New Zealand police announced.
At approximately 1:40 p.m. on Friday local time, New Zealand police responded to a “serious firearms incident” at Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Ave in Christchurch. Another nearby mosque, Linwood Masjid, was attacked shortly after.
New Zealand police announced on Twitter that 41 people were killed at the Masjid al Noor mosque while 7 died at the Linwood Masjid mosque on Linwood Avenue, while one died from their injuries in a hospital.
Explosive devices were also later found in multiple vehicles by authorities.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the incident as “an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence” and considered it to be “New Zealand’s darkest day.”
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”
A 28-year-old suspect, Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court tomorrow morning, according to USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC.
Four people, three men and a woman, were taken into custody, but as of Saturday morning local time, only the 28-year-old and two others remained in custody, according to New Zealand Police.
NBC News and other outlets report that just before the attack began, a man matching the profile of the suspect posted a long online manifesto with anti-Muslim and white supremacist themes.
The New York Times reports that Moustafa Farouk, a spokesman for the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said the attack occurred during Friday prayer.
The PM said New Zealand was targeted because it was a place which celebrated multiculturism.
“We were chosen because we represent diversity, kindness compassion, a home for those who share our values, a refuge for those who need it and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,” Ardern said.
“These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that absolutely no place in New Zealand and no place in the world,” she added condemning those involved.
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Disturbingly, a male gunman live-streamed his attack on one of the mosques.
In the Facebook Live video, which has since been removed by the social networking site, the man drove up to the mosque with a number of weapons in his car’s front passenger seat and in the trunk of his car.
The man entered the mosque and began firing on terrified worshippers. He returned to a number of the mosque’s rooms multiple times firing on the already injured.
After leaving the mosque, the man shot a number of pedestrians before getting in his car and driving through the streets of the city’s central business district firing through his windshield and windows at other drivers.
The video has been circulating on the internet, but since it has been brought to police attention, officials have been working to remove the “extremely distressing footage.”
“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed,” New Zealand Police wrote on Twitter.
One mosque attendee told CNN the gunman fired shots at more than 200 people for approximately “10 to 15 minutes.”
Police have asked mosques across the country close their doors until further notice.
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“We are dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said during a press conference Friday. “They involve an active shooter, they involve multiple fatalities.”
“I want to ask anyone that was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go, to close your doors, until you hear from us again,” he said.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”