Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the nation’s deadliest attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a terrorist attack and one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.
A gunman identifying himself as an Australian live-streamed the rampage at Al Noor mosque to Facebook. He had espoused racist, anti-immigrant views.
Police say a man in his late 20s has been arrested and charged with murder.
Two other men and one woman were also detained. One was released later.
No names have been made public. Firearms and explosive devices were recovered, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
The gunman live-streaming the attack from a head-mounted camera said he was a 28-year-old Australian called Brenton Tarrant. The footage showed him firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the Al Noor mosque.
The suspect who was charged appeared to have published a document before the attack outlining his intentions as well as details about the plan for the attack. He is due in court on Saturday morning.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the man as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist. New Zealand Police Commissioner Bush confirmed that the man was not known in advance to either New Zealand or Australian security services.
Cricket team escapes attack
The Bangladesh national cricket team appeared to have narrowly escaped the shooting. A reporter following the team, which was due to play New Zealand in a now-cancelled test match on Saturday, tweeted that the team had “escaped from a mosque near Hagley Park where there were active shooters”.
Player Tamim Iqbal tweeted that the “entire team got saved from active shooters”.
Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus said most of the team had gone to mosque by bus and were about to go inside when the incident took place.
“They’re safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,”
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Ardern said in a press conference.
In a tweet, she said: “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.”
US President Donald Trump offered his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand. “The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” he wrote.
Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt solidarity” and was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence”, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she mourned “with New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques”.
And French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “odious attack” and said France stood “against any form of extremism”.