March 15 (Reuters) – Forty people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Nick Macfie)
WELLINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) – A gunman opened fire on Friday prayers at a mosque in New Zealand killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown, in what looked set to be the country’s worst ever mass shooting.
New Zealand media reported that between nine and 27 people were killed, but the death toll could not be confirmed. Police said multiple fatalities had occurred at two mosques, but it was unclear how many attackers were involved.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.
One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
“He had a big gun … he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.