Mosque Attack in New Zealand: 49 killed in Christchurch mosque massacre
12:00 AM, March 16, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:13 AM, March 16, 2019

49 killed in Christchurch mosque massacre

Bangladesh cricket team touring New Zealand escape terrorist attack on two mosques; white supremacist gunman livestreams video while shooting

A "right-wing extremist" and white supremacist armed with semi-automatic weapons rampaged through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday prayers, killing 49 worshippers and wounding dozens more.

-Mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch

-Unconfirmed video shows gunman during attack

-Police take 3 men and 1 woman into custody

-Improvised explosive devices found in car

The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed as terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she led a shocked nation on one of its "darkest days."

Bangladesh's cricketers were just a few minutes from being caught up in the massacre when they arrived at Masjid al Noor mosque for Friday prayers as the shooting began, a team spokesman said. However, all members are safe now, team sources said.

The attacker live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim-to-victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.

A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been arrested and charged with murder.

He is set to appear at the Christchurch District Court early today. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.

The chief suspect allegedly published a racist "manifesto" on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," said Ardern. "From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned."

Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, police said.

Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".

His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.

The dead were said to include women and children. Around 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.

Three Bangladeshis were among the dead, according to the Bangladesh consulate in Auckland.

In a chilling account, Khaled Mashud, Bangladesh's cricket team manager, described how most of the Bangladeshi team drove up to the Masjid al Noor in a bus just as the attack got underway.

Just when the players were about to enter the mosque, a lady warned them that a gun attack was going on inside the mosque, saving their lives, reported our reporter Mazhar Uddin, who was with the team.

"We were very close, we could see the mosque. We were maximum 50 yards away. I would say we are very lucky," Mashud told reporters in Christchurch.

"If we were there three to four minutes earlier, we would have been in the mosque, massive thing might have happened."

The distraught players managed to safely make their way back to the Hagley Oval cricket ground -- a kilometre away from the shooting scene.

Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus later said the team were "shocked" but unharmed and had been ordered to stay in the team hotel.

New Zealand police described the footage shot by the gunman as "extremely distressing" and warned web users that they could be liable for up to 10 years in jail for sharing such "objectionable content".

In addition to the footage -- which AFP has verified, but is not distributing -- a number of pictures were posted to a social media account showing a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.

The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing around 50 murders a year in the entire country of 4.8 million and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place.

Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to several locations.

In Auckland, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, two unattended bags left near a railway station were detonated by military explosives experts.

Police also attended a property in Dunedin which they believe is linked to the attack and evacuated nearby residents. The southeastern city was named in the suspect's manifesto as the original target for his attack.

Police warned Muslims across the country not to visit mosques "anywhere in New Zealand" in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.

The attack shocked the local Muslim population, many of whom had come to New Zealand as refugees.

The Ardern government has been vocal in its support for opening the doors to those suffering from wars in Syria, Afghanistan and beyond.

At least two Jordanians were among the dead, according to that country's foreign minister, while Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Faisal said four citizens of his country were being treated in hospital for injuries and another five were missing.

The attacks sparked horror and revulsion around the world.

US President Donald Trump condemned the "horrible massacre" in which "innocent people have so senselessly died".

Mass shootings are very rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally ill man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.

However, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.

Christchurch, a relatively small city on New Zealand's south island, hit global headlines in 2011 when it was struck by a deadly earthquake, killing more than 180 people.

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