Forty people have died in two mosques attacks in Christchurch, with explosive devices found attached to vehicles of some of those arrested.
The attackers killed thirty people at Deans Avenue mosque, while 10 died at the Linwood Avenue mosque, while many are seriously injured and in intensive care at various hospitals, not less than 48 patients with gunshot wounds are being treated at Christchurch Hospital.
The attacks was confirmed by
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
She described the attacks as act of terrorism “well planned” attack on two mosques“This can only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern says.
“While we do not have anything to believe at this stage that there were any other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage.”
Ms Ardern said it can only be described as a terrorist act and the national security threat level has been lifted from low to high.
She said this was a well-planned attack, with explosive devices also found attached to vehicles of some of those arrested.
Earlier this afternoon Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there were multiple fatalities and that three men and one woman are in custody. Police cannot confirm whether there are other people involved.
An Australian is among those arrested following the Christchurch shootings, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Mr Bush confirmed there were fatalities at two different locations – a mosque at Deans Ave and a mosque at Linwood Ave.
He said he was unsure if other locations were under threat or if other people were involved. Police still do not have the identity of the victims of the shooting. Police are setting up a facility so that people can phone in and check on their loved ones, he said.
Police say they are still treating the situation in Christchurch as ongoing, and strongly urge people to stay indoors, and keep safe.
“We have mobilised every police resource in the Canterbury region to respond to this,” Mr Bush said.
“There were a number of IEDs attached to vehicles that we also stopped. They’ve been made safe by the Defence Force but that does go to the seriousness of the situation.”
Mr Bush said social media footage of the incidents is very disturbing and police are looking at how to remove it from the public domain.
Police have told mosques nationwide to shut their doors until further notice, as the situation in Christchurch unfolds. The mosques where the shootings occured, in Riccarton and Linwood, remain in lock down.
Police are unsure if other locations are under threat and officers have been mobilised across the country, Mr Bush said.
He warned anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go, and for mosques to close their doors until they hear from police.
Christchurch Airport is still open, however some flights have been cancelled. Air New Zealand has cancelled 17 regional turbo prop services this evening as it is not possible to screen customers and their baggage, but jet operations from Christchurch Airport will continue.
Forty-eight patients with gunshot wounds are being treated at Christchurch Hospital after the attacks.
Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said the patients range from young children to adults with gunshot wounds, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.
He said 12 operating theatres are currently in use and due to the nature of some of the injuries, many people will need multiple surgeries.
There is sufficient capacity and staff at Christchurch Hospital and the police cordon has been lifted from the site, so people who need emergency health care can now attend the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department, he said.
About 200 family members are on site awaiting news of their family members, Mr Meates said.
A witness said a man wearing a military-style jacket opened fire inside the mosque on Deans Ave.
The head of the Federation of Islamic Federations of New Zealand, Dr Mustafa Farouk, told RNZ that up to 500 people were inside the mosque.
Mr Farouk said he believes members of the Bangladesh cricket team may have been worshipping at the mosque at the time.
He said Friday is a big day for the mosque and there would have been between 300 and 500 worshippers there today.
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