Dozens dead in mosque attack in New Zealand

49 people were killed during Friday prayers in shootings against two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. According to authorities, a gunman being identified as an Australian extremist.

The attacks in this locality in the South Island also resulted in 20 serious injuries, said Premier Jacinda Ardern.

Referring to one of the “darkest days” in this nationally peaceful South Pacific nation, she denounced the “unprecedented” violence.

Witnesses said they saw bloody bodies. Children and women were amongst the dead. The police asked not to share “extremely distressing images” after posting a video of a white man filming the shooting of worshipers at a mosque.

“It’s clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Ardern. “As far as we know, (the attack) seems to have been well planned.”

The gunman in one of the mosques was an Australian national, Sydney premier Scott Morrison has described as “a right-wing terrorist extremist”.

The exact number of shooters was not known, but Ms. Ardern said three men were in custody. Police said improvised explosive devices had been disarmed by the military.

A Palestinian in one of the places of worship said he saw a man being shot in the head.

“Blood covered”

“I heard three quick shots and after about ten seconds, it started again. It must have been an automatic weapon, no one could pull the trigger that fast,” said the man to AFP on condition of anonymity. “Then people started running out. Some were covered with blood.

Videos and documents circulating on the internet, but not officially confirmed, seem to indicate that the attacker published his attack Live on Facebook.

AFP has studied these images, which have since been removed. Journalists with experience in verification techniques believe that they are genuine.

A “manifesto” posted on accounts linked to the same Facebook page refers to the theses of the “great replacement” circulating in far-right circles and theorizing the disappearance of “European people”.

The two known targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque in the center of the city and a second mosque in Linwood in the suburbs.

A witness told the news website Stuff.co.nz that he was praying at Masjid al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue when he heard shooting. While running away, he saw his wife dead in front of the religious building.

Another man said he saw children being shot. “There were bodies everywhere.”

A witness told Radio New Zealand that he heard gunshots and saw four people lying on the ground, “with blood everywhere”.

The security forces had imposed a closure of the city center before lifting the measures a few hours later. The police asked worshippers not to go to the mosques.

“State of shock”

The municipality has opened a red line for parents worried about children who were protesting against climate change.

All schools in the city have been cordoned off. Police have called on “all those present in central Christchurch not to go out on the street and to report suspicious behavior.”

Public buildings such as the central library were also closed.

The Bangladeshi cricket team, an extremely popular sport in this country, went to one of the mosques at the time of the attack but none of the players who came to play a match in New Zealand was injured, according to a representative.

“They are safe, but they are in shock. We asked the team to stay confined in its hotel, “he told AFP.

New Zealand is famous for its low crime rate. In this country, “the use of firearms to commit crimes remains a rare event,” writes the US State Department in its advice to travelers.

According to the 2013 census, some 46,000 people identified themselves as Muslims in New Zealand, just over 1% of the total population.

In 2017, six worshipers were killed in a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, during the worst anti-Muslim attack in the West. The perpetrator of the shooting was sentenced to life imprisonment.