Christchurch shootings: What we know so far about the terror attack

Christchurch shootings: What we know so far about the terror attack

Police cordoned off the area close to a Christchurch mosque where an Australian extremist killed
Police cordon off the area near a Christchurch mosque where an Australian extremist killed multiple Muslim worshippers. (Photo: AFP/Flynn Foley)

CHRISTCHURCH: Attacks on two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday (Mar 15) left at least 49 dead and dozens more injured. 

It was New Zealand's worst mass shooting, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a terrorist attack. 

Four people have been taken into custody, with one gunman identified as Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant.

Here's what we know so far about the attack.

WHERE DID THE SHOOTINGS TAKE PLACE?

The shootings happened at two mosques, located at Deans Avenue and Linwood Avenue. 

Masjid al Noor, the city's main mosque in central Christchurch was filled with worshippers when the attack happened during Friday prayers, as was the second mosque in suburban Linwood.

New Zealand christchurch shooting map 2 mosques
Map of Christchurch, where shooting incidents have occurred at two mosques. (Image: AFP)

The visiting Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at Masjid al Noor when the shooting started but all members are safe, a team coach told Reuters.

The team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday, but the match has been cancelled following the attack.

WHAT HAPPENED? 

Witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children also believed to be among those killed.

One man who said he was at Masjid al Noor told media that the gunman burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said the witness, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud, adding that he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.

READ: Eyewitnesses recount horror in Christchurch shooting

Another witness who wanted to remain anonymous said he saw a man shot in the head. 

"I heard three quick shots then after about 10 seconds it started again. It must have been an automatic no one could pull a trigger that quick," he told AFP. "Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood."

Members of a family react outside the mosque following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christch
Members of a family react outside the mosque following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter

One man, with blood still on his shirt, said in a television interview that he hid from the gunman under a bench and prayed that he would run out of bullets.

"I was just praying to God and hoping our God, please, let this guy stop ...," Mahmood Nazeer told TVNZ.

"The firing went on and on. One person with us had a bullet in her arm. When the firing stopped, I looked over the fence, there was one guy, changing his gun."

Video and documents circulating online - but not officially confirmed - suggested the shooter had streamed his attack on Facebook Live. The video has since been taken down.

Two IEDS (improved explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.

READ: Christchurch shootings - 2 Malaysians injured; 6 Indonesians were in mosque during attack 

WHO IS BEHIND THE SHOOTING? 

Australia-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, was charged on Saturday with murder - the first of more charges to come.

The former personal fitness trainer flashed a white power gesture as he appeared in court. 

READ: 'Ordinary white man'? Picture of New Zealand accused emerges

Tarrant lived in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, and was a member of the Bruce Rifle Club, according to media reports.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described him as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist". 

Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not clear. One man, 18-year-old Daniel Burrough, has been charged with incitement.

Ardern said the attack appears to have been well planned. 

She said the shooter was "in possession of a gun licence" obtained in November 2017, and he started legally purchasing two semi-automatic weapons, reportedly AR-15s, two shotguns and a lever-action gun the following month.

"This can now only be described as a terrorist attack," she said in an address to the nation. 

At least one Saudi citizen, one Indonesian, four Jordanians and six Pakistanis were among the dead.

WHAT HAS BEEN NEW ZEALAND'S RESPONSE?

All mosques in New Zealand were asked to shut their doors in the wake of the attack. Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes.

Christchurch city council also offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally nearby.

READ: Christchurch shooting - One of New Zealand's 'darkest days', says PM Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand is now on its highest security threat level.

"The joint intelligence group has been deployed and police are putting all of their resources into this situation," said Ardern. "The Defence Force are currently transporting additional police staff to the region. Our national security threat level has been lifted from low to high."

"We have tightened our response from our agencies at the border, at the airports. In fact, at every level, we have a heightened response," she added.

Ardern has also vowed to toughen the country's gun laws.

This story has been updated to reflect more recent developments. 

Source: CNA/Agencies/dl/hm(gs)

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