Police are responding to a shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Reports suggest at least nine people have been killed. One person is in custody.
The shooter entered the Masjid Al Noor mosque 10 minutes after prayers began and let off “dozens, if not hundreds of rounds,” witness Ahmad al-Mahmoud told New Zealand outlet Stuff. He described the man as white-skinned, blond, short, and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.
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.
Police have one suspect in custody, but are unsure if there are other suspects at large, according to commissioner Mike Bush.
I want to ask anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today, not to go.
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.”
In response to a serious ongoing firearms incident in Christchurch all Christchurch schools have been placed into lockdown. Police urge anyone in central Christchurch to stay off the streets and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
Police have confirmed that multiple people were killed in the two shootings, and an unnamed source told Stuff there were nine fatalities. Witness Muhammad Alsouzan says “up to 15” were shot inside the mosque.
Christchurch Hospital staff were expecting about 40 to 50 injured people and had cleared out the emergency department in preparation.
In response to a serious ongoing incident we're locking down number of central city buildings, including the Civic Offices and Central Library. https://t.co/tph8HFddm3
— Christchurch City Council (@ChristchurchCC) March 15, 2019
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.
An account of the shooting posted on Twitter and not confirmed officially identifies the perpetrator as a 28-year-old Australian man who frequently posted on 8chan and Twitter, including pictures of his rifle and magazines, covered in the names of other mosque shooters, a lengthy manifesto, and even a Facebook live video, purportedly of the shooting.