TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Mass shootings at two mosques left up to 40 people dead, as New Zealand police defused several improvised explosive devices found attached to vehicles in Christchurch area.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that four people had been taken into custody, three men and one woman. As of 5:47 p.m. local time (12:47 a.m. ET), authorities said that a lock down of local schools had been lifted.
Bush said several explosives had been attached to vehicles. He added that there is no assumption the attack was contained to Christchurch, CNBC news reported.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
She said during a news conference that at least 40 people are believed to have been killed in the attack.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.
According to RT, one Malaysian was injured in the attack, and three Indonesians survived the shooting while three more are unaccounted for, according to reports.
A second shooting took place at Linwood Masjid, where a witness says they saw a man leave the mosque wearing camouflage gear and a motorcycle helmet, while unconfirmed reports indicate a bomb was found on nearby Strickland Ave.
A Muslim local reportedly chased the gunmen off from the Linwood mosque, firing two shots at them as they drove off.
Four suspects are currently in custody, including one woman, and public facilities remain on lockdown while police are urging mosques elsewhere in New Zealand to close their doors for the remainder of the day.
“I want to ask anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today, not to go,” commissioner Mike Bush said.
The commissioner said police had been dealing with two shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, one at Deans Avenue and one at Linwood Avenue. “Those locations remain locked down,” he said in a statement published at 6:06 p.m. local time.
“Police are still treating this incident as ongoing and Christchurch residents are strongly urged to stay indoors and keep safe, and monitor the Police website and social media for further information. We continue to utilize every possible resource to resolve the situation,” Bush said, adding that all mosques in the country had been asked to shut their doors.
A crisis meeting of national security agencies is underway at the Wellington headquarters of the New Zealand national police.
Officers cleared buildings near the mosques, while Christchurch schools have been placed on lockdown. Another witness said he saw “a man in handcuffs being led away by police.”
Christchurch Hospital staff were expecting about 40 to 50 injured people and had cleared out the emergency department in preparation.
A text sent by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand reportedly said 50 people were shot during Friday prayers.
Twenty emergency vehicles are on the scene, and six people have reportedly been taken to the hospital, with two in serious condition.
“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a press conference.
A video by Daily Mail shows the moment of attack on one of the mosques.
Another footage has emerged on social media of police ramming a vehicle and arresting a shooter.
One of the shooters, believed to be a 28-year-old Australian man, livestreamed the attack on Facebook, according to local media, and penned a lengthy manifesto characterizing the shooting as a “terrorist attack.”
The attack resulted in the highest death toll from gun violence in the nation’s recent history.
New Zealand’s three largest internet providers, Spark, Vodafone and Vocus, have announced they are blocking customers’ access to three websites located outside the country that are still hosting the livestream of one shooter’s rampage, an unprecedented restrictive measure Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie called “the responsible thing for the industry to do.”