New Zealand: 49 dead in mass shootings at Christchurch mosques

Police say 49 people have been killed and more than 20 seriously injured in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch when at least one gunman opened fire on worshippers.

Earlier it was reported that 40 had died but police have given new figures at a news conference.

It’s the country’s worst ever mass shooting and has been condemned throughout Asia.

“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

“There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts,” she said, describing it as a terrorist attack.

Most of the victims are said to have been killed at the Al Noor mosque, the main mosque in the city on New Zealand’s South Island, with several more people killed at a mosque in the suburb of Linwood.

Some 48 people, including children, are being treated at Christchurch hospital, New Zealand health authorities have said. Wounds range from minor to critical, they said.

Eyewitnesses said a white man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit and carrying an automatic rifle had started shooting people at random in the Al Noor mosque. Some have described horrific scenes, with the shooting carrying on for several minutes and people being shot outside as well as inside the mosque.

“I did not see who was shooting but I saw that some people were running out through my room where I was in and also I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping. At that moment I realised it was really serious,” said one survivor, Mohamed Nazir.

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Murder charge

Four people – three men and one woman – were taken into custody, police say, but they are not sure if others are involved. The prime minister said they were not on a terror watch-list.

Police say a man in his late twenties has been charged with murder. They have added that they are not looking for further suspects.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that one of the suspects was Australian-born.

He described the massacre as a “vicious, murderous attack” on people of faith, carried out by “an extremist, right-wing violent terrorist”.

New Zealand police say their Australian colleagues had no information on the suspects.

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