Terrorism in Christchurch: One of New Zealand’s “Darkest Days”

At least 49 are dead in what’s expected to be the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand history.

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15 March 2019, 5:33am

Image Reuters

Christchurch is counting its dead after multiple coordinated shootings occurred across the city on the afternoon of Friday, March 15. New Zealand Police have four suspects in custody, including one Australian national identified as Brenton Tarrant by Australian Police.

The government said 49 are dead after twin attacks in separate mosques. Shots were fired at both Masjid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Ave, Riccarton, and at Linwood’s Masjid Mosque.

Len Peneha witnessed the shooting at Masjid Al Noor Mosque. He told AP News that he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque, and then heard dozens of gunshots and saw people fleeing in fear. He also said the gunman left before Police arrived. Peneha subsequently entered the mosque and “saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque.”

About three kilometres from Al Noor mosque, a bomb was located inside a beige Subaru that crashed on Strickland Street, reported The Guardian.

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A second gunman attacked at Linwood’s Masjid Mosque.

Waikato University’s Professor of International Law Andrew Gillespie said the multiple shooter scenario suggested the possibility of a “terror cell”.

“If it’s a cell we need to ask why weren’t they detected, because that’s why we have security services and it may be that those services have been looking under the wrong rocks.

"New Zealand’s terrorist factor right now is low, which means compared to other countries we are one of the safest countries in the world, so it is unlikely the authorities saw this coming.”

The Bangladesh cricket team were worshipping at Masjid Al Noor Mosque when the shooting occurred. They escaped unharmed. Bangladeshi cricketer Tamin Iqbal Khan tweeted: “entire team got saved from active shooters.” The Bangladesh team were scheduled to play their third test against New Zealand's Black Caps starting tomorrow. The test match has been cancelled.

In an emotional statement Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attackers had “no place in New Zealand”, emphasising “they are not us”. She also confirmed that there were multiple offenders. “This is one of New Zealand's darkest days,” she said repeatedly.

She called the attack an “unprecedented act of violence that has absolutely no place in New Zealand”. She said the mosques “should have been a safe place” and that people praying there call “New Zealand their home, they should be safe here”.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that there were “multiple fatalities at this point”. He couldn’t confirm the number of dead but said it was “significant”.

He also said that four suspects were currently being held in custody, three men and one woman. He said the first suspect to be arrested had explosives on his body, but he has been disarmed.

Police are currently not aware of any other suspects, but Bush said that “we cannot assume there are no others at large.”

Reports about vehicles with bombs have been addressed too, with Bush saying they have been stopped.

One of the gunmen live-streamed his attack of one of the mosques on social media. When asked about this, Bush said the Police were working to remove it from the web as “it shouldn’t be in the public domain”.

Bush said Police were not assuming this was contained to Christchurch urged New Zealanders not to assume the danger had passed.