March 18, 2019
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Four in custody, multiple fatalities after Christchurch mosque attacks

Christchurch, New Zealand, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- New Zealand Police said there have been multiple fatalities and four people taken into custody on Friday after shootings in two Christchurch city mosques.

Three men and one woman were being held, Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a news conference.

A gunman opened fire in Masjid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch at about 1.45pm local time, with casualties reported at that site as well as at another mosque, in what the country's leader described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days."

Bush told reporters there were also a “number of IED (improvised explosive devices) attached to vehicles” that had been made safe.

Much of the city was still on lockdown. Bloodied bandages could be seen outside Masjid Al Noor Mosque and Armed Offenders Squad officers were pushing back members of the public, an EPA-EFE journalist reported.

Police were “dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events” involving “an active shooter. They involve multiple fatalities,” Bush said earlier in the day.

“The multiple fatalities are, as far as we know, at two locations – a mosque at Deans Ave and another mosque at Linwood Ave, Christchurch,” Bush said.

At an early afternoon press conference Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the attacks.

“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence,” Ardern said ahead of a crisis meeting of national security agencies.

“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home,” she said.

“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

The suspected Masjid Al Noor Mosque shooter livestreamed the attack on social media for around 17 minutes, local media reported. In the footage he said his name and claimed to be a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man, the New Zealand Herald said.

The footage showed firearms with white writing and ammunition sitting on the front passenger seat and in the boot alongside petrol canisters before the gunman walked inside the mosque and opened fire on worshippers.

The Herald added that the alleged shooter published a manifesto online.

An eyewitness inside the Masjid Al Noor Mosque told Radio New Zealand that he heard shots fired and “there was blood everywhere.”

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team were heading to one of the mosques as an attack occurred.

“Our team was on their way to the mosque for Friday prayer. The incident happened before they reached the place," Bangladesh Cricket Board chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury told EFE.

The team is in the city to play the final test match of their New Zealand tour, which has now been canceled.

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