Mass shootings at two mosques in Central Christchurch, New Zealand have left as many as 49 dead. The incident took place at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid in the suburbs. Four suspects – three men, including one wearing wired explosives, and a woman has been taken into custody. However, the police say there could be more. The gunmen had done a livestream of the incident on the social media. Facebook Australia – New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said the videos have been taken down.
Eyewitnesses have described seeing a man wearing a helmet and glasses and a military-style jacket opening fire inside the mosque with an ‘automatic weapon’. The incident happened during the Friday prayers. Witnesses believe the incident lasted six minutes and the shooter returned to his vehicle for more ammunition before opening fire again.
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New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there is a possibility that the danger is not contained in the City alone. Bush said “We are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat.” Bush said the police found improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attached to vehicles; it was defused by the Defence Force. He warned people to stay indoors.
“Anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today should not go, till we give an all clear”, said Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
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New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden described the incident as ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’. She said “What has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” Arden said the attacker has ‘no place in New Zealand’.
The mass shooting incident has once again drawn attention to the country’s ‘gun laws’. According to the 2017 Small Arms Survey, New Zealanders own about 1.2 million firearms. And this puts the country’s per capita rate of gun ownership higher than Australia’s but far below the United States. There has been renewed debate over what police have called loopholes in the way military-style semi-automatic rifles are defined by law.