40 people killed in shootings at New Zealand mosques, prime minister says

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About 40 people were killed when at least one shooter opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that four people had been taken into custody, three men and one woman. As of 5:47 p.m. local time (12:47 a.m. ET), authorities said that a lock down of local schools had been lifted.

Bush said several explosives had been attached to vehicles. He added that there is no assumption the attack was contained to Christchurch.

“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

She said during a news conference that authorities currently believe about 40 people had been killed in the attacks. More than 20 others were seriously injured, she added.

Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.

One Malaysian was injured in the attack, and three Indonesians survived the shooting while three more are unaccounted for, according to reports.

The commissioner said police had been dealing with two shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, one at Deans Avenue and one at Linwood Avenue. “Those locations remain locked down,” he said in a statement published at 6:06 p.m. local time.

“Police are still treating this incident as ongoing and Christchurch residents are strongly urged to stay indoors and keep safe, and monitor the Police website and social media for further information. We continue to utilize every possible resource to resolve the situation,” Bush said, adding that all mosques in the country had been asked to shut their doors.

Bush said he would not at this time “be discussing the offenders’ possible motivations or the causes of this incident.”

The Bangladesh cricket team was in the vicinity of the shooting but all members were safe, a team coach told media.

Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere.”

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.

The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.

Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying that the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.

“The players are shaken up but fine,” Villavarayen was quoted as saying.

—Reuters contributed to this report.