Christchurch: New Zealand lived a horrifying Friday when gunmen attacked two mosques in Christchurch city and killed at least 49 people, evoking worldwide condemnation as Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called it the country's darkest day. At least 48 people were hurt in the attacks.
As it was Friday, a large number of people were present in the mosques for the prayers.
Speaking to New Zealand Herald, Nour Tavis said he was in the front row of the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave with his friend when the shooting started.
The survivor said at first they did not know what the noise was. "Then we heard screaming ... everyone panicked," he said. "There was shooting and shooting and shooting ... people were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall," he told the newspaper.
He said one of the survivors smashed a window and jumped out. "It was the only way to escape. I followed," he said.
The Bangladesh cricket team touring New Zealand escaped the shootings miraculously as they were about to enter the mosque, when the incident occurred. The players "got inside a bus and laid down on the floor after the warning," said a Bangladesh reporter.
Darkest day of New Zealand, says PM Arden
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern described the incident as a terror attack.
She also called it as the "darkest days" for the country.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Prime Minister Ardern said while addressing a press conference.
Who were the killers?
The country's police said a 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court tomorrow morning.
"Two others remain in custody," the police said. Reports said four people were initially arrested, including one woman.
The police are currently visiting a property in Somerville Street, Dunedin in connection with the attacks.
The attacks were reported from Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch and from another mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
New Zealand police commissioner Mark Bush was quoted as saying by the media that the police defused "a number of IEDs [explosive devices] attached to vehicles".
A man, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant and live-streamed the video of the attack on Facebook, has been grabbing the media headlines since morning.
"Social media accounts in that name were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked and set out anti-immigrant motivations for the attack, reported the BBC.
Police, however, did not identify any of the persons.
Bush said: "Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones. We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today."
World Leaders condemn:
US president Donald Trump condemned the incident and tweeted: "My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!."
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
The Official Twitter page of the UK Prime Minister said: "On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence." - PM @theresa_may."
"On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence." - PM @theresa_may— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 15, 2019
The UK Royal Family tweeted: "The Queen has sent the following message to the people of 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... I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured. At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders."
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