March 18, 2019
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At least 40 people killed in Christchurch terror attack, PM Ardern says

Christchurch, New Zealand, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- At least 40 people were killed and 20 injured in a coordinated shooting attack on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, the prime minister of New Zealand said.

Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that the incident could "only be described as a terrorist attack".

"It is with extreme sadness that I tell you that as at 7pm tonight, we believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence", Ardern said, adding that more than 20 were seriously injured.

In a statement, Canterbury District Health Board CEO, David Meates, said that 48 patients, including young children, were being treated for gunshot wounds, and that some of the injuries were critical.

An unknown number of additional patients with gunshot wounds have been transferred to other facilities in the city, Meates added.

Ten people died at Linwood mosque, the prime minister said, and 30 more have been killed at Al Noor mosque in the center of Christchurch.

"From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned", Ardern said, adding that three people, "one of which has publicly stated that they were Australian born", had been apprehended in connection with the attack.

"These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world", Ardern said.

She said two explosive devices, which have been disarmed, had been found attached to the suspects' vehicles.

Ardern added that "while we do not have any reason to believe at this stage to there are any other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage".

The prime minister also addressed the victims of the attack, many of whom had actively chosen to live in New Zealand "for its safety" where "they were free to practice their culture and religion".

"We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave of extremism", Ardern said.

"We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and can not be shaken by this attack."

She called on the country to support the community that has been targeted by the shootings, and to condemn the ideology that perpetrated the attack.

"You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you", Ardern said.

Although authorities believe that there were no further suspects at large, there was a strong police presence and road closures in parts of the city.

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

“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 at a press conference earlier 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.”

One of the suspects was an Australian-born citizen, the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"I condemn the violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack that has stolen the lives of so many innocent New Zealanders as they went about their peaceful practice of worship at their mosques in Christchurch today," Morrison said.

“Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence. Kia kaha (stay strong),” he later tweeted, adding that Australian flags had been ordered to fly at half-mast.

The suspected Al Noor Mosque shooter live streamed 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 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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