“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” PM Jacinda Ardern said. One man was in custody, and the shooting appeared to have been livestreamed on Facebook.
By Phil Helsel, Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny, Jason Cumming and Linda Givetash.
Nearly 50 worshippers were killed in mass shootings during Friday prayers at two mosques in New Zealand in what the country’s prime minister called “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who described the shootings as a terrorist attack that appeared to have been well-planned.
One man was in custody, charged with murder, and he appeared to have livestreamed much of the attacks on Facebook.
Officers responded to reports of shots fired around 1:40 p.m. Friday (8:40 p.m. ET Thursday) in Christchurch, a city of around 375,000 people. The two mosques are about three miles apart, and the second mosque was attacked about 45 minutes after the first.
Bush said that four people — three men and a woman — had initially been detained, but it remained unclear whether all of them were involved.
Police sources told NBC News’ Australian partner Channel 7 that the main suspect’s name is Brenton Tarrant, 28.
According to Bush, “a number of IEDs attached to vehicles” were also found. He said firearms had been recovered from both scenes.
“I cannot forget the sound of shooting.”
The man who was charged didn’t appear on any terrorism watchlists, authorities said. Bush said that “no agency had any information” about the suspects before the incident.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he was advised that one of those in custody is an Australian national, and he condemned the attack “by an extremist right-wing violent terrorist.”
Various social media posts on Twitter and the fringe message board 8chan were published online by someone who appeared to have had prior knowledge of the shootings, including pictures of weapons and ammunition.
Authorities have not confirmed that the postings are connected to the shootings, but pictures and videos seen by NBC News as well as a manifesto posted shortly before the attack match known details of the shootings.
The manifesto includes anti-Muslim rhetoric, far-right and far-left political sentiment and references to radicalization via the internet.
Users on one of 8chan’s message boards, where the manifesto and terror threat were posted before the shooting, frequently share racist, homophobic and misogynistic memes and diatribes.