Armed police have been deployed after a "serious firearms incident" at a central Christchurch mosque packed with worshippers for Friday prayers.
The former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Mohammed Jama, told Stuff a man entered Masjid al Noor mosque, on Deans Ave next to Hagley Park, and started firing an automatic weapon at about 1:40 this afternoon.
He said he saw about four people injured and two lying on the ground, but was unsure whether they were alive or dead. Other witnesses have also reported casualties, including a Stuff photographer who saw three people seriously injured on the steps of the mosque.
The NZ Herald spoke to a witness, Mohan Ibrahim, who ran for his life to escape the gunman and who said many people had been killed or injured. "I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven't heard from. I am scared for my friends' lives."
Witnesses report hearing around 20 gunshots.
Police have cleared Cathedral Square, where thousands of children were protesting inaction on climate change, and all Christchurch schools have been placed in lockdown. Deans Ave has been cordoned off, and Police are urging everyone in Central Christchurch to stay out of harm's way.
In an official statement, Police said they were "responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.
"Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice."
This article originally appeared on VICE NZ.