New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that four people are in custody — three men and one woman — but police are unsure if there are any other suspects.
The shootings occurred at the Masjid al Noor mosque at Deans Avenue and Linwood Masjid in Linwood.
“We are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat,” Bush said.
Multiple improved explosive devices were attached to vehicles as part of the attack, Bush told reporters. These had been “made safe by the defense force.”
“This goes to the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
Authorities said that they “will not be discussing the offenders’ possible motivations or the causes of this incident” at this stage.
However, in a social media post just before the attack, an account that is believed to belong to one of the attackers posted a link to an 87-page manifesto that was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas and explanations for an attack. The manifesto was not signed.
Police were still treating the incident as ongoing and urged Christchurch residents to stay indoors and monitor the police website and social media.
The situation was also considered as to limited to Christchurch and Bush asked “anyone who 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.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held a press conference into the shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, describing it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“What has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said.
Ardern said the attacker has “no place in New Zealand.”
“For now my thoughts and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders are with those who have been affected their families,” she said.
Police said they have mobilized every national police resource to respond to the incident.
Gunman opened fire ‘for ten to 15 minutes”
Armed police were deployed after first receiving reports of the shootings at 1:40 p.m. Friday local time. Friday is the busiest day for many mosques around the world when Muslims convene for Friday prayers.
Speaking to CNN, witness Mohan Ibn Ibrahim said he was inside the mosque when the shooting began and that he heard the gunman “continuously shooting for ten to 15 minutes.”
“I was in the mosque. It’s a big mosque and there were more than 200 people inside. The gunmen came from the backside. Gunshots went on for a long time. We had to jump the wall to escape. I saw lots of broken glass and bricks on the backside of the mosque,” he said.
“I came to the street I saw one person got shot on his chest,” he said, adding that the ambulance and police then arrived on the scene.
He said that he had a friend in another mosque in the area had told him a gunman had opened fire there as well and five people were dead.
“I could not contact two of my friends who are in the mosque as well,” he said.
A spokesperson at Christchurch Hospital told CNN that “multiple” casualties had been sent there, but did not confirm the number.
One witness, who did not want to be named, told CNN that he smashed a window inside the mosque to escape. He said he was in the bathroom when multiple people began shooting.
“I turned to open the door to the toilet and they started firing and I said ‘what was going on’ and they just keep firing and firing,” he said.
“I smash the window and the firing just keep going,” he said.
Another told CNN that he prayed that the gunman would “run out of bullets.”
“I was thinking that he must run out bullets you know, so what I did was basically waiting and praying to God, oh God please let this guy run out of bullets,” he said. He said a man told him to remain still when the gunman shot the man “straight in the chest.”
Police are aware of a video shared online and not verified by CNN that purports to show a gunman walking into an unnamed mosque and opening fire. They have asked social media users to stop sharing graphic footage circulating online relating to the incident in Christchurch.
“We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed,” the New Zealand police said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said videos that appeared to show the Christchurch shootings were quickly taken down.
“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we removed both the shooter’s Facebook account and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” she said.
School lockdown lifted
Christchurch was put on lockdown with all schools and council buildings shut and roads closed across the city.
The shooting at the mosque on Deans Avenue next to Hagely Park, is near to Cathedral Square, where children were taking part in a global protest to raise awareness for climate change.
“If youR child was attending the climate change protest in Cathedral Square and you want to check if they are in the Civic Offices, please call the Council Contact Centre on 03-941-8999,” Christchurch City Council said.
Christchurch is a coastal city of 404,500 residents. It is the second most-populous city in New Zealand behind Auckland and Wellington. It has an agricultural economy.
In 2010 and 2011 the city suffered a series of devastating earthquakes, with the most destructive at 6.3 magnitude, which killed nearly 200 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.
Just 1% of New Zealand’s population of almost five million are Muslim, according to government statistics, less than 50,000 people in 2013.
Journalist Chris Lynch, a radio host on New Zealand station ZB Radio, told CNN that one of the shootings had occurred at “the biggest mosque in all of Christchurch” and described it as “a very peaceful mosque.”
He described Christchurch as a “very peaceful city” that is still getting over the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit in 2011.
“That (earthquake) brought all the skyscraper buildings down and this is one of the reasons why people are fearful, I feel,” he told CNN.
The put upMultiple deaths as gunmen open fire in two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurchappeared first on CNN