Latest: Man charged with murder after 49 killed in Christchurch mosque shootings

Police block the road near the shooting at a mosque in Linwood, Christchurch. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

    What we know:

  • 49 people have been killed in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch;
  • At least 20 others are being treated in hospital;
  • Three men and one woman have been arrested. One man has been charged with murder;
  • The man charged was named as Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, in media reports in his home country;
  • New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern said there is "a real range of ages" among the dead.

Update 10.20am: A man is to appear in court in New Zealand charged with murder after 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers.

Authorities detained three other people – two men and a woman – and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack in Christchurch.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

She said the incident represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged that many of those affected may be migrants and refugees.

In addition to the dead, she said dozens of other people were seriously wounded.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Ms Ardern.

Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of five million people. One of the suspects was later charged with murder.

He was named as Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, in media reports in his home country.

While there was no reason to believe there were more suspects, Ms Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised to the second-highest level.

Authorities have not specified who they detained, but said none had been on any watch list.

A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and the reasoning behind the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the four people detained was an Australian-born citizen.

Ambulance staff with a man outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)
Ambulance staff with a man outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Friday night that a man had been charged with murder. He did not mention the other three suspects and did not say whether the same gunman was responsible for both attacks.

At a news conference Ms Ardern alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that, while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees, “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”

On the suspects, she said: “These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”

Mr Bush said police had found two improvised explosive devices in one car, a clarification from an earlier statement that there were devices in multiple vehicles. He said they had disabled one and were in the process of defusing the second.

The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1.45pm. At least 30 people were killed there.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a press conference from Wellington after the mosque shootings in Christchurch (TVNZ/AP)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a press conference from Wellington after the mosque shootings in Christchurch (TVNZ/AP)

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Mr Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try to help.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

He said he helped about five people recover in his home, one of whom was slightly injured.

“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland I want to express our condolences and our solidarity with the people of New Zealand following the horrific attacks in Christchurch.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar offered his condolences to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand.

"Irish people share a deep affinity with the people of New Zealand, whether it’s through rugby, travel or pride in our culture as small island nations," he said.

"New Zealand and its people are open, tolerant and welcoming. We join them today, united in our condemnation of this appalling attack and determined in our resolve that hate will not triumph.

"I will be writing to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to express sincere sympathies and support. I would also like to pay tribute to the valiant work of Christchurch’s emergency services."

Tanaiste Simon Coveney says Ireland's thoughts, sympathies and prayers are with the people of New Zealand.

Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)
Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

A video that was apparently livestreamed by the gunman shows the attack in horrifying detail.

The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque, spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down.

He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the pavement. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle.

The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground.

After walking back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song Fire by English rock band The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows “I am the god of hellfire!” and the gunman drives away. The video then cuts out.

Facebook New Zealand spokeswoman Mia Garlick said the video of the attack was “quickly removed” and any “praise or support” for it was being taken down.

In a statement, she said: “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act.

“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts 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.

“We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues.”

The second shooting took place at the Linwood Masjid Mosque in which at least 10 people were killed.

Police speak to witnesses after the terror attack in Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)
Police speak to witnesses after the terror attack in Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.

Mr Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.

The police commissioner warned anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today to stay away.

The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack.

He said he was not a member of any organisation, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.

He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.

He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration”.

New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees.

Last year, the prime minister announced that the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020.

Ms Ardern, whose party campaigned on the promise of raising the intake of refugees, dubbed the planned increase “the right thing to do”.

Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. The deadliest in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbour.

- Press Association

Earlier: 49 dead in New Zealand mosque shootings; Ronan O'Gara describes shock in Christchurch

Update 8.20am: New Zealand police say the death toll from the mosque shootings in Christchurch has risen to 49.

At least 20 others are being treated in hospital following the shootings, which authorities have called a "planned attack".

A man in his late twenties who has Australian citizenship has been charged with murder.

Three others have been arrested.

"At the Deans Avenue mosque we know 41 people have lost their lives, at Linwood mosque 7 have lost their lives," confirmed New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

"Of the 40 people being treated at hospital, one has passed."

President Michael D Higgins has issued a statement saying the attacks will have "appalled people all over the world".

He has offered his sympathies of the people of Ireland to those affected in Christchurch.

"As President of Ireland may I offer the sympathy of the people of Ireland to the families of the victims, and express the solidarity of the people of Ireland with the people of New Zealand at this time," President Higgins said.

"This attack on innocent lives at spaces of worship for a religious community will be condemned by all those who believe in freedom and democratic values."

People in the community have begun a spontaneous vigil in the area, callers to radio stations have said.

Eileen Foyle from Bishopstown in Cork told Red FM:

Christchurch is smaller than Cork, so to have 49 people killed in one fell swoop, people just don't understand how this happened, or why.

"People have had enough to deal with in the last few years, with the earthquake and everything."

Eileen, who has been living in Christchurch for almost three years, said that all rugby, cricket and soccer fixtures have been cancelled in Christchurch tomorrow as a mark of respect.

She said that despite the horror of this tragedy, people always find a way to come together to process what happened.

"I'm definitely in shock, but I still feel safe in the city," she said.

Former Irish rugby player Ronan O'Gara lives in New Zealand and is the current coach of the Crusaders who are based in Christchurch.

He says it has been an extremely difficult day.

"Of all the cities in the world, Christchurch has had its own adversity with earthquakes but the people are very resiliant and very nice, and now this out of the blue," he said.

The boys are shook, no doubt about it. Everyone is shook.

"Hard to know in terms of what to do, where to go to. I suppose that's what shock is.

"It's obviously very raw at the minute. People are just kind of keeping to themselves in the team environment."

"I'm not from there, obviously, but it's a lovely city and when you live there it becomes your home. It's been a very surreal day."

Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, said he was saddened by the attacks in Christchurch.

"I am deeply saddened at this morning’s news of a savage attack on two Muslim communities at prayer in New Zealand.

"All of us, of whatever religious tradition, can identify with what that might mean for a congregation gathered for worship.

"Responsibility for these attacks clearly rests with some violent individuals."

Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, said the city is in lockdown following the shootings.

"The schools are in lockdown – the children are at school and they are safe," he said.

"We have all of our facilities in lock-down – we are not letting people in and we are not letting people out.

"I could never believe that something like this would happen in the city of Christchurch, but actually I would never believe that this would happen in New Zealand.

"It looks as if simply the worst has happened. We need to pull together and get through this situation."


European Council President Donald Tusk described the attack as “harrowing news” and said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can “count on our solidarity”.

He tweeted: “Harrowing news from New Zealand overnight.

“The brutal attack in Christchurch will never diminish the tolerance and decency that New Zealand is famous for.

“Our thoughts in Europe are with the victims and their families. PM @jacindaardern can count on our solidarity.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he “strongly condemns” the attack, adding it is an example of “rising racism and Islamophobia”.

He tweeted: “I strongly condemn the terror attack against the Al Noor Mosque in #NewZealand and Muslim worshippers.

“May Allah have mercy on the victims and grant a speedy recovery to the wounded.

“On behalf of my country, I offer my condolences to the Islamic world and the people of New Zealand, who have been targeted by this deplorable act – the latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.”

Update 7.18am: Forty people have been killed in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

The country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the total and said at least 20 others had been seriously injured.

New Zealand Police had earlier said that four people – three men and one woman – were in custody in relation to the attacks.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said one of those arrested was an Australian citizen.

A number of improvised explosive devices found on vehicles after the shootings were defused by police.

Ms Ardern said the offender is in custody, adding: “So I can give that assurance, he has been apprehended. He is also accompanied by two other associates.”

An injured man is taken to hospital (AP)
An injured man is taken to hospital (AP)

When asked about the attackers not being on intelligence agency watchlists, she said it was an indication they “had not acted in a way that warranted it”.

Asked about the ages of victims, she said: “I will have been amongst other members of the public who will have seen the footage as the injured were being brought to Christchurch A&E and you certainly can see from that footage there is a real range of ages there.

“I imagine that these would have represented particular brothers, fathers, sons.”

She added: “We have undoubtedly experienced an attack today that is unprecedented, unlike anything that we have experienced before.

“But, as I say, New Zealand has been chosen because we are not a place where violent extremism exists.

“We reject those notions and we must continue to reject them. This is not an enclave for that kind of behaviour, for that kind of ideology.

Police stand outside a mosque in Linwood, Christchurch (AP)
Police stand outside a mosque in Linwood, Christchurch (AP)

“We will and must reject it. This is a place where people should feel secure and will feel secure.

“I am not going to let this change New Zealand’s profile, none of us should.”

Officers responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at about 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT), and urged people in the area to stay indoors.

All schools in the city were put into lockdown as the situation unfolded.

Mosques in Deans Avenue and Linwood Avenue were targeted in the attack, but police urged all mosques across New Zealand to shut their doors in the wake of the incident.

Ms Ardern had earlier called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

“What has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said.

Witness Mohan Ibrahim said he was one of 200 people in the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue when he heard shots fired.

He told the New Zealand Herald: “At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running.”

“I still have friends inside,” he added.

“I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven’t heard from. I am scared for my friends’ lives.”

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, currently on tour in New Zealand, said on social media that they had nearly been caught up in the tragedy.

Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers”, while Mushfiqur Rahim said: “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque…we r extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again…. pray for us”.

Muslim New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams said he is sending his prayers to the families of those killed and is “deeply, deeply saddened” by the attack.

In an emotional speech to camera that he shared to social media, the 33-year-old said: “Just heard the news and I couldn’t put it into words how I’m feeling right now.

“Just sending my duas to the families, apparently there’s close to 30 people dead.

“Just sending out my duas, inshallah everyone that’s been killed today in Christchurch.

“Inshallah you guys are all in paradise and yes I’m just deeply, deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand.”

“Duas” is the Arabic for prayers while “inshallah” means “God willing”.

New Zealand Police urged people not to share “extremely distressing footage” relating to the incident that was circulating online.

“It’s very disturbing, it shouldn’t be in the public domain,” a spokesman said.

- Press Association

Earlier: Multiple deaths in shootings at two New Zealand mosques

Update 6.37am:Multiple people have been killed in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand and four people have been taken into custody.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and said the events in the city of Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”.

Three men and one woman were taken into custody, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

He said police had defused a number of improvised explosive devices found on vehicles after the shootings.

A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions.

He said he considered it a terrorist attack.

Ambulance staff with a man outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)
Ambulance staff with a man outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

Ms Ardern at her news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not”.

Authorities have not yet said how many people were killed and wounded.

“It’s a very serious and grave situation,” Mr Bush said.

Anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday should stay put, he added.

The deadliest shooting occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1.45pm local time.

It is one of New Zealand's darkest days

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Mr Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his drive, and fled.

Mr Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try to help.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said.

“I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)
Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.

“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

Police said there was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque.

Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.

Mr Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.

The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he was 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack.

He said he was not a member of any organisation, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.

He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.

He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration”.

- Press Association

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