Breaking: Police have confirmed there have been “multiple fatalities” in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Several hundred people are believed to have been inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue when a gunman opened fire at 1.40pm local time (11.40am AEDT).
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed one person is in custody but said police were unsure if any other gunmen were still at large.
He confirmed there were two locations, with the nearby Linwood Islamic Centre also targeted.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the shooting marked one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.
“Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuate this had violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Bill Shorten both tweeted their sorrow and support.
‘He shot everyone’
A witness, with blood splatters across his shirt, said the shooter changed magazines seven times after opening fire as the crowd gathered to pray.
“When the shooting started people started rushing out, and the door was closed, and the guys came on them and started shooting them,” he told AAP, describing how he hid under a bench and pretended to stop breathing.
“He went to all the different (rooms) and he shot everyone.”
Another witness, Len Peneha, said he saw a man dressed in black enter the building before hearing dozens of shots, followed by people running in terror.
Mr Peneha, who lives next door to Masjid Al Noor mosque, said the gunman ran outside, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.
Mr Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said.
The number of casualties is not yet known.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running away in terror.
He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.
Mr Peneha says he went into the mosque to try and help: “I saw dead people everywhere.”
Another worshipper who was at the packed mosque said the gunman came in and started shooting.
“He came through and started shooting at everyone in the mosque everywhere,” the witness said.
“They had to smash the door, the glass from the window and from the door, there is more door, smash it. Everyone tried to get out. So we tried to get like everyone to run away from that area because we couldn’t like open the door for everyone.”
The man said he ran away from the car park and over a fence.
A man told stuff.co.nz they heard multiple shots before police swarmed the area.
“I heard 20 or more gunshots I thought something happened and the people were running on the other side of Deans Avenue and now I can see so many police,” he said.
Another witness told TVNZ he heard gunfire at around 1.45pm local time.
“I heard a big sound of the gun. And a second shot, I ran,” the worshipper said.
“Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran around the door, I ran behind the mosque.”
The man said he saw around four people injured and “lots of blood on the floor”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her scheduled engagements for the rest of the day.
The Bangladesh cricket team was reportedly at the mosque at the time of the shooting but escaped through a side door.
ESPN Cricinfo journalist Mohammad Isam tweeted a video of players fleeing from the building.
WHAT WE KNOW
– The shooting happened at Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park at 1.40pm Friday local time
– Schools across the city are in lockdown
– Witnesses reported seeing people on the ground and “blood everywhere” – AAP
Please help us continue to bring the REAL NEWS – PayPal