The quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch was struck by two deadly attacks on Friday, with 49 people killed and another 20 seriously injured after gun assaults on mosques as Muslims worshipped.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her first public remarks after the attacks.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us.”
During afternoon prayers on Friday – Islam’s holy day – a gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, killing forty-one.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack."
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks after confirming 40 people have been killed in shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch: https://t.co/oZ0OsGA507 pic.twitter.com/pnkJGVDmdA
— CNN International (@cnni) March 15, 2019
Another seven were slain at a second mosque five kilometers away in suburban Linwood.
Young children were among 48 people being treated at Christchurch Hospital.
Police warned Muslims not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand,” a country of nearly five million where mass shootings are rare. New Zealand police also evacuated residents living near a property in the city of Dunedin, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) from Christchurch, that they believe is linked to the attacks.
White Supremacist Attack
Three men and a woman were detained. One of the men was later charged with murder, and two others remained in custody, though their role in the attacks was not clear.
The man charged with murder has not been officially named, but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was an Australian citizen, and described him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”
“The person who has perpetuated this violence has no place in New Zealand,” Ardern said. He published a racist manifesto on Twitter before the shooting then livestreamed his rampage on Facebook. Entitled “The Great Replacement,” the 74-page manifesto said the gunman – who identified himself as an Australia-born, 28-year-old white male from a low-income, working-class family – had wanted to attack Muslims. The title of the manifesto has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that asserts European populations are being displaced in their homelands by immigrant groups with higher birth rates. In his manifesto, the suspected shooter said he’s an admirer of U.S. president Donald Trump, saying he’s “as a symbol of white identity and common purpose.” Trump condemned the attack via Twitter, saying his “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!” he added.
Who Were The Victims?
A Jordanian man was killed in the attack, the country’s foreign ministry said, the first and only victim identified so far.
People from around the world were in the mosque at the time of the assault.
Among them were six Indonesians – three of whom were reported safe, the country’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi said, adding they were searching for the others. A Saudi Arabian man, two Malaysians, two Turks and at least five Jordanians were among those wounded. India’s high commissioner to New Zealand said nine people of Indian nationality or origin were missing. Some narrowly escaped the carnage, including the Bangladesh cricket team who arrived at the Masjid al Noor mosque minutes after the shooting began. Manager Khaled Mashud said the team saw “bloodied people coming out of the mosque… we kept our heads down in the bus in case of any firing.”