[BBC News Asia]: Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incident as a terrorist attack and one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.
A man in his late twenties was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday morning, police confirmed. Two other men and one woman were detained nearby and firearms and explosive devices recovered, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. He said one of those detained was later released, while officers were working to determine if the other two were involved.
The attack, which came around the time people were attending the mosques for Friday prayers, was the deadliest in the nation’s history.
A gunman, who identified himself in footage of an attack as a 28-year-old Australian called Brenton Tarrant, live-streamed his rampage to Facebook from a head-mounted camera. The footage showed him firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque.
Police called on the public not to share the “extremely distressing” footage online. Facebook said it had removed the gunman’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any copies of the footage.
The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch. Witnesses told local media they ran for their lives, and saw people bleeding on the ground outside the building.
A second mosque in the suburb of Linwood was evacuated, but there were fewer details from that site. Police also defused “a number of IEDs [explosive devices] attached to vehicles”, Mr Bush said.
Authorities advised all mosques in the city to shut down until further notice. Armed police were also seen at Papanui High School in Christchurch, which was cordoned off.
Mr Bush said a number of firearms had been recovered from both mosques, and explosive devices were found in a car belonging to one of the suspects. Footage filmed by the gunman at the Al Noor mosque showed him driving up to the front door, before taking weapons from his car, entering the mosque and firing at those inside.
One unnamed survivor told TV New Zealand he saw the gunman shoot a man directly in the chest. The attacker reportedly targeted the men’s prayer room in the mosque, then moved to the women’s room.
“What I did was basically just waiting and praying, God please, let this guy run out of bullets,” the witness said. “He came to this side, he shot this side, he went to another room and went to the ladies’ section and shot them. I just heard one of the ladies has died.”