A white Australian right-wing terrorist who livestreamed his sickening shooting spree on Facebook is one of four people arrested over dual mosque attacks which left 49 dead and 48 injured on New Zealand’s ‘darkest day’.
The gunman, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant from Grafton, NSW, Australia, stormed the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country’s South Island about 1.30pm, opening fire with a semi-automatic shotgun and a rifle on hundreds of defenceless worshippers attending Friday prayers.
A sickening 17-minute video of the unfolding horror shows the self-confessed white supremacist dressed in army fatigues firing mercilessly at people scrambling to flee, and calmly reloading when he runs out of bullets.
At about the same time, there was a second shooting at Masjid mosque in Linwood, where seven more were killed.
In the aftermath of the bloody attacks, three men and one woman were arrested, with police charging ‘one man in his late 20s’ with murder.
A man wearing military fatigues was arrested outside Papanui High School.
Of the 49 fatalities, 41 were killed at the Al Noor Mosque and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. Three were outside the mosque itself. A 49th died in hospital.
A further 48 people were rushed to Christchurch Hospital with gunshot wounds, 20 in a critical condition.
New Zealand was placed on ‘high alert’ following the attacks.
In New Zealand’s worst ever terror attack and one of the worst mass-shootings ever:
49 people killed by at least one gunman at two separate mosques in Christchurch on Friday from 1.30pm
The gunman at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch – a 28-year-old Australian – livestreamed the mass shooting
Four suspects – who were not known to counter-terror authorities – are being questioned in custody
One of the men in his ‘late 20s’, whose identity has not been confirmed by police, was later charged with murder
The Bangladesh cricket team were on their way to the Al Noor Mosque at the time of the shooting
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday’s terror attack was ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’
Early reports indicated a shooting at Christchurch Hospital. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the mosques were the lone targets.
In a twisted manifesto believed to have been written by Tarrant, he said he targeted the mosques because they had ‘far more invaders’.
‘I only arrived to New Zealand to live temporarily whilst I planned and trained, but I soon found out that New Zealand was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the west.
‘Secondly an attack in New Zealand would bring to attention the truth of the assault on our civilisation.’
He said he planned the massacres months in advance.
AUTHORITIES RESPOND TO THE ATTACKS
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed the death toll had risen to 49 as of 9pm local time.
‘This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected. We don’t know the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown,’ he said in a statement at about 6pm.
Speaking of the victims, Commissioner Bush said: ‘Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones.’
He also praised local police officers who responded to the attacks.
‘We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today.’
Armed police were seen patrolling the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Auckland after the attack in Christchurch.
He earlier urged Muslims in New Zealand not to go to mosques on Friday.
Commissioner Bush said four people were in custody. He also confirmed multiple bombs attached to vehicles near the scene of the shootings were disarmed.
Ms Ardern said the shootings were ‘an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand.
‘This is not who we are.
‘The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home. They should be safe here. The person who has perpetuated this violent act against them, they have no place in New Zealand society.’
She confirmed that police believe the attacks were ‘meticulously’ planned out.
Ms Ardern flew to Wellington from Christchurch to hold a crisis meeting at parliament.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was ‘horrified’ by the ‘callous, right wing extremist attack’.
‘The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins,’ he said.
He and Ms Ardern will discuss the repercussions of the attack later on Friday evening.
SICKENING ATTACK SHARED ONLINE
The suspected gunman shared a 73-page manifesto to Twitter before the killings, foreshadowing a ‘terrorist attack’.
He entered the Al Noor Mosque on Friday during afternoon prayers and opened fire.
The distressing video streamed to his Facebook profile shows the 28-year-old man firing more than 100 shots at those inside.
His guns were scrawled with the names of past mass killers and cities where the shootings occurred.
The gunman’s rampage began when he got into his car wearing military-style body armour and a helmet saying ‘let’s get this party started’.
He then drove to the mosque listening to folk music and military tunes before parking in an alley around the corner.
The woman stumbled on to the street and was lying face down in the gutter yelling ‘help me, help me’ as the shooter walked up to her.
Tarrant calmly leaned over her and shot her twice in the head.
Seconds later he returned to his car and drove over her body to make his escape, stopping to shoot at least one other person through his car window.
As he drove he expressed regret for not staying longer and ‘burning the mosque to the ground’. Two jerry cans of petrol were earlier seen the the back his car.
‘But, s**t happens,’ he said. ‘I left one full magazine back there, I know for sure. I had to run along in the middle of the firefight and pick it up.
‘There wasn’t even time to aim there were so many targets. There were so many people, the car park was full, so there’s no real chance of improvement.’
Footage from within the Masjid mosque later showed survivors tending to the wounded.
THE SHOOTER’S MANIFESTO
In a manifesto seemingly written by Tarrant and shared to Twitter, he mentions being inspired by other shooters including Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Oslo, Norway in 2011.
He said he ‘disliked’ Muslims and hated those who had converted to the religion, calling them ‘blood traitors’.
Tarrant said he originally wanted to target a mosque in Dunedin, south of Christchurch, after watching a video on Facebook.
‘But after visiting the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood and seeing the desecration of the church that had been converted to a mosque in Ashburton, my plans changed,’ he wrote.
‘The Christchurch and Linwood mosques had far more invaders.’
He said he had been planning an attack for up to two years and decided on Christchurch three months ago.
The shooter said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the death of Swedish schoolgirl Ebba Akerlund, a girl who was killed in a terrorist attack in Stockholm in April 2017.
Tarrant said he was a supporter of Donald Trump as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’.
He described himself as ‘just a regular white man’.
He said he was born to ‘working class, low-income family… who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people’.
‘My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues,’ he wrote.
The gunman said he carried out the massacre to ‘directly reduce immigration rates to European lands’.
He said New Zealand was not his ‘original choice’ for the attack but said the location would show ‘that nowhere in the world was safe’.
‘We must ensure the existence of our people, and a future for white children,’ he wrote.
He wrote that the shooting was an ‘act of revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history’.
‘For the enslavement of millions of Europeans taken from their lands by the Islamic slavers… for the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands,’ the gunman wrote.
He shared photos to his now-removed Twitter account ahead of the attacks, showing weapons and military-style equipment.
In posts online before the attack Tarrant wrote about ‘taking the fight to the invaders myself’.
‘THERE WERE BODIES ALL OVER ME’
Mohammed Jama, the former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said a man with a gun entered the Christchurch Mosque about 1.40pm local time on Friday.
A man inside the mosque at the time of the shooting said there ‘bodies all over me’.
Witnesses inside the mosque reported seeing 15 people being shot, including children.
A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath.
‘My wife is dead,’ he said while wailing.