By: Laura Steiner
49 people are dead, and approximately 20 wounded after gunmen opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand. The incident happened as Muslims gathered for Friday afternoon prayers. The gunman, described as a white man in his late 20’s live-streamed the incidents on Facebook via a camera in his helmet. New Zealand issued a statement asking social media users not to share the video.
Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
According to reports, the first incident began at Al Noor mosque located in central Christchurch. Witnesses reported seeing people bleeding on the ground outside. The second incident took place approximately 10 minutes away in a suburb. Police also defused several IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) attached to cars. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweeted a statement calling it an unprecedented act of violence.
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
Canadian leaders have also issued statements. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal statement pledging support for New Zealand. “Canada condemns this attack, and will continue to work closely with New Zealand, our close partner, and friend, and others to take action against violent extremism.” Public Safety, and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale has said Canada’s threat level remains at medium. “There is no known nexus to Canada”, he said of the incident. New Zealand is one of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes’ Intelligence community.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer added his voice, offering support for the Muslim community in a Facebook Post. “To the Muslim community around the world, and here at home in Canada, we stand with you, and reaffirm our commitment to building a better world where every people, of every faith, can live in freedom and peace together,” he said. Milton MP Lisa Raitt extended her condolences on Twitter. “I wish peace upon those in the Muslim community affected by this horrific tragedy. We should never be fearful of worshipping,” she said. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued his statement calling it an act of terror. “Islamophobia kills- and has no place anywhere in the world” he said.
Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) reacted as well calling the incident unimaginable.
Terrible, unimaginable news from #Christchurch this morning. We extend our thoughts and condolences to the victims, their families, the first responders and all New Zealanders as they try to make sense of such senseless and cowardly violence. ^jh pic.twitter.com/qmT0NxyYZx
— Halton Police (@HaltonPolice) March 15, 2019
According to media reports, the gunman holds Australian citizenship He is set to appear in court Saturday morning local time on a charge of murder. New Zealand police have two other suspects in custody.