Gun­fire kills mul­ti­ple peo­ple in 2 New Zealand mosques

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WELLING­TON, New Zealand — A gun­man opened fire in two mosques in cen­tral Christchurch to­day, killing mul­ti­ple peo­ple in what the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter called “an ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­prece­dented act of vi­o­lence.”

The po­lice said three men and a woman were in cus­tody, and they were un­sure if there were other peo­ple in­volved. The coun­try’s po­lice com­mis­sioner, Mike Bush, warned res­i­dents of cen­tral Christchurch to stay in­doors, and po­lice asked mosques to close.

“Po­lice are re­spond­ing with its full ca­pa­bil­ity to man­age the sit­u­a­tion, but the risk en­vi­ron­ment re­mains ex­tremely high,” Bush said in a re­lease to­day, (shortly be­fore mid­night Cen­tral time Thurs­day).

“This is and will be one of New Zealand’s dark­est days,” New Zealand’s prime min­is­ter, Jacinda Ardern, said at a news con­fer­ence to­day.

De­tails about the shoot­ing and the num­ber of ca­su­al­ties were still emerg­ing late Thurs­day.

Ardern said many peo­ple af­fected may be mi­grants or refugees, and “they have cho­sen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The per­son who has per­pet­u­ated this vi­o­lence against us is not.”

Bush said the Al Noor Mosque near Ha­gley Park

and a mosque on Lin­wood Av­enue, also in Christchurch, were at­tacked.

The New Zealand news web­site Stuff re­ported that po­lice had cleared Cathe­dral Square, the site of a rally to fight cli­mate change. All Christchurch schools were put on lock­down.

Shortly be­fore the shoot­ing, some­one ap­pear­ing to be the gun­man pub­licly posted links to a man­i­festo on Twit­ter and 8chan, an on­line fo­rum. The 8chan post in­cluded a link to what ap­peared to be the gun­man’s Face­book page, where he said he would soon broad­cast live video of the at­tack.

The 17-minute video, which ap­peared to be recorded on a hel­met cam­era, shows his drive to the mosque, fol­lowed by a har­row­ing nearly 2 min­utes of him shoot­ing at wor­ship­pers in the mosque be­fore flee­ing the build­ing, run­ning back to his car and swap­ping weapons.

He then re-en­ters the mosque and again be­gins shoot­ing, con­tin­u­ing to me­thod­i­cally move through the build­ing. Sev­eral vic­tims can be seen in the footage, many ly­ing on top of one an­other mo­tion­less in a cor­ner of the room.

Af­ter an­other few min­utes, he leaves again, gets in his ve­hi­cle and drives away, talk­ing to him­self through­out.

“There wasn’t even time to aim, there was so many tar­gets,” he says at one point.

The video and Twit­ter posts showed weapons cov­ered in the names of past mil­i­tary gen­er­als and men who have re­cently car­ried out mass shoot­ings.

In the man­i­festo, the poster iden­ti­fied him­self as a 28-yearold man born in Aus­tralia. He listed his white na­tion­al­ist he­roes, de­scribed what he said mo­ti­vated him to at­tack, and said he pur­posely used guns to stir dis­cord in the United States around the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

Au­thor­i­ties said they were un­able to con­firm fa­tal­i­ties, but the scale of the blood­shed ap­peared to be vast. Ra­dio New Zealand quoted an eye­wit­ness say­ing, “there was blood ev­ery­where.”

Re­porters with the New Zealand Her­ald de­scribed see­ing bod­ies near the Al Noor Mosque, where about 300 peo­ple

were in­side for af­ter­noon prayers, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia ac­counts.

One pur­ported wit­ness, Mo­ham­mad Isam, a Bangladeshi jour­nal­ist, posted a video of mem­bers of Bangladesh’s na­tional cricket team who he said es­caped the at­tack.

The video showed sev­eral men wear­ing team jer­seys walk­ing briskly through a park with the mes­sage, “Bangladesh team es­caped from a mosque near Ha­gley Park where there were ac­tive shoot­ers. They ran back through Ha­gley Park back to the Oval,” re­fer­ring to the nearby cricket ground.

Af­ter the shoot­ing, Ardern can­celed her events for the rest of the day.

The shoot­ing hap­pened a day af­ter the coun­try’s min­is­ter for cli­mate change, James Shaw, 45, told po­lice that he was grabbed and hit on a street in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Welling­ton.

Re­ports of the shoot­ing hap­pened as young pro­test­ers were gath­er­ing in Christchurch and cities around the world to de­mand ac­tion on cli­mate change.

Christchurch, with about 388,000 res­i­dents, is the big­gest city on New Zealand’s South Is­land, hug­ging the Pa­cific Ocean coast.

There hasn’t been a mass shoot­ing in New Zealand since 1990, when a man killed 13 peo­ple, in­clud­ing two 6-yearolds, af­ter a dis­pute with his neigh­bor in the sea­side town of Aramoana.

That shoot­ing led to tight­ened gun laws, in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on “mil­i­tary style semi-au­to­matic weapons.”

Gun own­ers must be li­censed, a process that in­cludes a re­view of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity and men­tal health, at­ten­dance at a safety pro­gram, an ex­pla­na­tion of how the gun would be used, a res­i­dence visit to en­sure se­cure stor­age, and tes­ti­mo­ni­als from rel­a­tives and friends.

Mur­ders are rare in New Zealand, and gun deaths even rarer. There were 35 mur­ders coun­try­wide in 2017. Since 2007, gun homi­cides have been in the sin­gle dig­its each year ex­cept 2009, when there were 11.

AP/MARK BAKER

Po­lice of­fi­cers pa­trol to­day out­side a mosque in cen­tral Christchurch, New Zealand, one of two where at least one gun­man opened fire. Res­i­dents of the area were warned to stay in­doors.

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