CHRISTCHURCH, Mar 15: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 40 people have died in the Christchurch shootings. Ten were killed at Linwood and 30 at the Deans Ave mosque near Hagley Park. A further 27 people were injured.
Ardern said it was an “unprecedented” situation and described it as a terrorist attack. Those in custody had not been on any watch list: “It’s not a matter of someone having slipped under the radar.” She said it was obvious the attacks had been planned for some time. Three people were arrested in relation to the attacks, while one other was arrested separately.
Ardern said she could not give any more detail about the alleged offenders. There were two bombs attached to suspects’ vehicles but they had been disarmed. She said she was asking questions about them, including access to firearms, of her officials. The National Security Threat Level had been lifted from low to high. The Defence Force was transporting more police to Christchurch.
Ardern said New Zealand was a place of safety where they raise their families. “Those values will not and cannot be shaken,” she said. “This is a place where people should feel secure.”
Four arrested after massacres at mosques
Gunmen opened fire at mosques in Christchurch earlier today. Four people are in custody – three men and one woman. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “there have been some absolute acts of bravery” in the arrests of the four attackers.A number of IEDs that were attached to vehicles in Christchurch have been defused by the Defence Force.
Bush said there were multiple casualties – a “significant” amount. “This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected.” “We don’t have the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown.” He said he would not assume there aren’t other attackers. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the gunmen was an Australian citizen living in New Zealand.
Morrison said he was “shocked, appalled and outraged,” at the attack. “We stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right wing, violent terrorist. “[He] has taken the lives,” he said, before correcting to: “they have stolen the lives in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders.
Morrison said the attack reminds us about the evil that is ever present and would seek to “strike us out at any time.” The lock down of schools throughout Christchurch was lifted at 5.50pm. When asked if it was true that a person had been arrested wearing wired explosives, Bush said that person had been made safe. “We’re still working through that but we believe there was a claim but that person has been made safe.”
Bush said he was aware that footage of the Al Noor Mosque shooting was on social media and police were doing everything they could to get it removed. “It shouldn’t be in the public domain.” Facebook Australia-New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said the videos have been taken down. “New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video.”
He said police did not have conclusive information about the motivation behind the shootings. He would not call it a terrorist attack but said it did not get any more serious in this country. “We are currently dealing with an unprecedented situation in New Zealand. It’s very grave, it’s very serious.”
One of NZ’s darkest days
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. A body has been seen lying near Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and a second gunman has been seen near Linwood Masjid mosque.
One of the gunmen broadcast live as he shot victims. One of the gunmen is believed to be an Australian who has written a manifesto declaring his intentions. In it, he says “it is a terrorist attack.” Ardern described the event as “extreme and unprecedented violence”. She will be flying to Wellington where she will speak with agents as soon as she lands.
“I’m not currently in a position to confirm the number of deaths or injuries,” Ardern said. “This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Ardern looked to be struggling to keep her emotions in check as she spoke. Bush said Police are pouring resources into the Christchurch area. He said they were also setting up a facility so that people could get phone in and get more information about their loved ones as a priority.
Bush said Defence Force aircrafts in Wellington were ready to fly more resources into the area. “I want to assure the public we are doing everything we can to make sure there is no more harm to their communities.” There was no indication there were other shooters at large. The multiple fatalities were at two locations – a mosque at Deans Ave and one at Linwood Ave. St John said there have been multiple fatalities.
People suffered injuries ranging from minor through to critical gun shot wounds. A number of helicopter and road ambulances are on standby to provide support, including transporting patients to other ICUs around the country. The New Zealand National Front has said it the events in Christchurch do not involve the organisation, nor its members.
“The National Front does not condone or agree with this type of wanton murder of innocent people regardless of their religious beliefs. “We believe in freedom of speech and freedom to worship whatever god you chose.” The University of Canterbury is in lock down. They say people are to stay inside until police give clearance. Two Christchurch shopping malls are also in lockdown.
Shoppers and retail assistants at Westfield Riccarton and Northlands Mall are being told no one is allowed to leave. The city centre is like a ghost town as police hunt the shooters. Heavily armed police, including special units, are speeding around the empty streets with lights and sirens wailing. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said her message to people is to stay away from central city.