Forty nine people have been killed and more than 20 others have been seriously injured at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch after at least one gunman opened fire on worshipers.
The man, who identified himself as 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, filmed the attack on social media. Dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle he started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque shortly after 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).
Tarrant, who filmed himself attacking a Christchurch mosque in a Facebook Live video, posted a 74-page manifesto in which he claims to be from a “working class, low income family”.
He said he was of Scottish, Irish and English stock and moved to New Zealand temporarily to plan and train and then stayed there after deciding to conduct the attack.
“I have read the writings of Dylann Roof and many others, but only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik,” he wrote.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police had also defused a number of improvised explosive devices found on vehicles after the mosque shootings.
New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. Police have asked all mosques across the country to close their doors today, advising people to stay away from them.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here,” Ardern said.
The Bangladesh cricket team which were in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket on Saturday was arriving for prayers at the mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were reported safe.
The teams later announced the test would be cancelled.