New Zealanders are trying to come to grips with the worst massacre in their nation outside of wartime in more than 200 years. At least 49 people were killed in attacks against two mosques, and dozens of others were wounded.
The attackers struck during Friday prayers when the mosques were full of worshippers.
Witnesses saw a man dressed in black enter a mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m, then heard dozens of shots. As people fled the mosque, witnesses reported seeing “dead people everywhere.”
Three men and a woman have been arrested. So far, one of the suspects has been charged with murder.
This peaceful island nation of five million people was shocked as the massacre was covered on national TV. “This is NEW ZEALAND – we don’t expect something like this to happen? The attacks, the terror,” one reporter said.
Scores of victims were rushed to nearby hospitals. “I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping,” an eyewitness said.
One woman said she even saw the shooting unfold. “I heard what I thought was fireworks and I saw a bunch of fellas running down the street. Then all of a sudden it got violent,” she said.
Authorities said none of the suspects had been on any watch list. A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian.
One of the attacks was reportedly live streamed on the discussion site 8chan, which also carried the gunman’s “manifesto” denouncing immigration.
Muslims make up only one percent of New Zealand’s population. The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the values of her country would not be “shaken” by the deadly mosque attacks.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Ardern said.
While authorities do not believe there are more suspects, the nation’s national security threat level is being raised to its second-highest level.
The Trump administration is reacting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying, “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
My 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019