New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls Friday "one of New Zealand's darkest days" after at least 49 people were killed and over 20 people were wounded during a mass shooting that targeted two New Zealand mosques on Friday.
The racist attack was reportedly "carefully planned". So far, authorities have since charged one individual, and detained three others. Additionally, explosive devices have been defused by police services.
Prime Minister Ardern explained that the events that occurred in Christchurch, a city in New Zealand, represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence". Most of those who were at the mosques at the time of the shooting were migrants and refugees.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern told reporters on Friday. Authorities have taken three men and a woman into custody, and one of the suspects has been charged with murder.
While authorities believe there are no other suspects, Ardern stated the national security threat level has been raised to the second-highest level as a direct result of the mass shooting.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the mosque attacks in New Zealand as "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 15, 2019
At least 49 people are dead. pic.twitter.com/4ZJG53Btrl
Although police have not revealed the identities of those detained, they did indicate that the names of the suspects are not on any watch list. However, a man who claimed to be responsible for the shootings left a 74-page "anti-immigrant manifesto" at the scene.
In the document, he explicitly stated who he was and his justification for the shooting. He also claimed to be a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist. Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, has since confirmed that one of the four suspects detained was indeed an Australian-born citizen.
The suspect who claimed responsibility for the shooting stated he came to New Zealand with the specific intention to plan and train for the attack. He had previously donated to and collaborated with nationalist organizations, though he claims to have acted alone in ordering the attack. In his manifesto, he explains that he selected New Zealand because of its geographic location; he wanted to prove to the world that even the most remote areas were not free of "mass immigration."
Prime Minister Ardern had explained that while many people impacted by the shootings were migrants and refugees, "They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us." During a news conference, Ardern further alluded to the rampant anti-immigrant sentiment through the country which may have motivated the attack.
Referring to the four people detained by police, Ardern said, "These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand."
“I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives,” Queen Elizabeth said in a statement.#Christchurch #NewZealandShootinghttps://t.co/I1lN4TabWE— Global National (@GlobalNational) March 15, 2019
One of the attacks took place at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m., killing at least 30 people. A witness named Len Peneha told reporters that he saw a man dressed in all black walk into the mosque, and then heard dozens of shots. He then witnessed people running from the mosque completely terrorized. The gunman, who was wearing a helmet with some sort of device on the top, then exited the mosque, dropping a semi-automatic weapon as he fled the scene.
"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque," he told reporters. "It's unbelievable nutty. I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous. I've lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they're very friendly. I just don't understand it."
New Zealand mosque attacker issued manifesto citing U.S. right-wing extremism as inspiration, police say. Death toll rises to 49. https://t.co/HvoIjaGSJJ— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 15, 2019
A video was livestreamed by the shooter, graphically depicting the events of the attack in horrific detail. According to a news report by CP24, "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."
A second shooting took place at the Linwood Masjid Mosque, killing at least 10 people. A witness named Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a worshiper returned fire with either a rifle or shotgun. He also reported two injured victims being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.