CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand police have charged one man with murder following a terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch which left at least 49 people dead.
"One person, a male in his late 20s, has been charged with murder, and should appear in the Christchurch Court tomorrow morning," said New Zealand police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Forty-one of those slain were at the Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch, police said. Seven more were killed at the Linwood Ave mosque, three of them outside the building. It is unclear where the remaining victim died.
The two mosques are about five kilometres apart. It was not clear if the same gunman was involved at both sites.
In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed.
The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".
It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved, but Ardern said three men had been taken into custody.
Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.
Video and documents circulating online - but not officially confirmed - suggested the shooter had streamed his attack on Facebook Live.
AFP has examined the footage, which has subsequently been taken down. Journalists experienced in verification techniques said it appeared to be genuine.
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New Zealand police described it as "extremely distressing" and urged web users not to share it.
A manifesto had also been posted online on accounts linked to the same Facebook page, suggesting the attack was racially motivated.
A number of pictures were posted to a social media account of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.
Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes.