Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
New Zealand police said four people were in custody in connection with a mass shooting that claimed multiple lives at two mosques in the city of Christchurch Friday, and an investgiation into the killings revealed a number of improvised explosive devices in vehicles that were defused.
Mike Bush, the commissioner of the New Zealand police, described the suspects only as three men and one woman. They were apprehended by local police, he said. No motive for the attack has been determined.
Investigators did not rule out that more gunmen could be involved in Friday’s attack, he said. Reports circulated that between nine and 27 people were killed, according to the New Zealand Herald, but authorities did not confirm those reports.
Police were also working to remove an unconfirmed video that circulated online showed a gunman entering a building and firing multiple gunshots at people inside. A man who claimed responsibility for the shooting reportedly published a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto prior to the killings.
Officers responded to a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch Friday afternoon and also responded to a second gunman at the nearby Linwood Masjid mosque.
Authorities were not sure if any other locations were under threat and urged worshipers to refrain from visiting any mosque in the country, Bush said. A brief lockdown of Christchurch schools was lifted Friday evening.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday’s events were “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Witnesses said the Masjid Al Noor mosque was full for Friday afternoon prayer when the shooting occurred. Len Peneha told the Associated Press that he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of gunshots. That was followed by terrified mosque-goers running from the terror. The gunman ran outside and dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon and fled.
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
“I saw dead people everywhere,” said one nearby resident.
Another witness told TVNZ he saw three women shot and bleeding outside the mosque. A third witness told Stuff.co.NZ the gunman fired more than 50 shots.
“He had a big gun and a lot of bullets and he came through and started shooting like everyone in the mosque, like everywhere, and they have to smash the door and the glass from the window and from the small door to try and get out,” he said.
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team said they narrowly escape the shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque. Players and coaching staff were reportedly getting off a bus when the shooting broke out. Tamim Iqbal, a batsman on the team, tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
Mario Villavarayen, a strength and conditioning coach with the team, told New Zealand media the players did not see the shooter but heard shots. He said they were shaken but unhurt.
“I spoke to one of them shortly after,” Vllavarayen said. They didn’t see anything but heard gunshots. They were at the ground and just started running. The coaching staff were all at the hotel.”
The team reportedly fled the scene on foot to Hagley Oval where it is scheduled to play New Zealand on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.