All times and dates featured in this article are in local New Zealand time.
At least 49 people are dead and 20 more are seriously injured following a pair of mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Both attacks began at lunchtime on Friday while the mosques in Christchurch’s city center were crowded with worshipers.
Police reported that 41 people were killed at the al Noor mosque as another seven were killed at the Linwood mosque. Another victim died in hospital.
Police responded to the attacks after receiving the first reports at 1:40 p.m.
Witnesses described gunmen opening fire for “10 to 15 minutes,” as one told reporters he prayed the shooter would “run out of bullets.”
Police discovered a pair of explosive devices attached to a vehicle following the attacks and worked to disable them. A number of weapons were also recovered at both shooting locations.
Another “location of interest,” over 200 miles away from Christchurch in Dunedin, was evacuated on Friday night.
Authorities were treating the incident as ongoing Friday evening, and warned Christchurch residents to stay indoors.
Attacker Live Streamed Shooting
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
One of the attackers appeared to post a lengthy manifesto to social media just before the attack, and police say that one of the shootings was live streamed on the internet.
“We would strongly urge that the (video) link not be shared,” New Zealand police said. “We are working to have any footage removed.”
Representatives for Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have publicly announced they will work to keep video of the attacks off their platforms.
Australian Suspect Charged With Murder
The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting. Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
Four people were arrested Friday, but police say one was “not related to these events.”
An Australian man in his late twenties has been charged with murder. He is set to appear in court Saturday morning. Two other men and one woman were arrested in relation to the attacks, but one of those detained was later released.
Police say it’s still unclear what role the other two suspects in custody played in the attack.
New Zealand Police have declined to discuss “the offenders’ possible motivations,” but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the shooting was committed by an “violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist.”
Reactions From World Leaders
In a press conference on Friday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the attack one of the country’s “darkest days,” and said the perpetrator’s “extremist views” have no place in New Zealand.
She also said the shootings “can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”
President Trump offered his condolences on Twitter, extending his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand.
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
“Forty-nine innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured,” he wrote. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
British Prime Minister Theresa May also expressed her “deepest condolences” to New Zealand, calling the day’s events a “horrifying terrorist attack” and a “sickening act of violence.”
The Queen has sent the following message to the people of New Zealand.
I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives…(1/2)
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) March 15, 2019
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II wrote that she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today,” before paying tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting victims of the attack.
Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt solidarity” according to the Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless act of violence.”
Our thoughts are with the people of New Zealand and the victims of these terrible attacks.
A former police officer has revealed Queen Elizabeth II was a victim of an assassination attempt.
Retired Dunedin detective Tom Lewis said the Queen was almost murdered by 17-year-old Christopher John Lewis in Dunedin, New Zealand during a diplomatic trip in 1981.
According to the Independent, Lewis fired a .22 rifle at the monarch when she stepped out of her royal motorcade to greet a roaring crowd.
The bullet had narrowly missed the Queen’s head, and while the audience had reportedly heard the gunshot, authorities maintained at the time it was the sound of a council sign falling over.
“You will never get a true file on that, it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it,” Tom said. “They were in damage control so many times.”
Lewis said the New Zealand government had covered up the assassination attempt in fear she would boycott the country and cause deep embarrassment,Daily Mail reported.
The police failed to charge the teenager with treason – which if found guilty, would have made him eligible for the death penalty – because they had received an order from “up top.”
Murray Hanan, Christopher’s former lawyer said: “The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand… it was too politically hot to handle. I think the government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”
Christopher later claimed in his unpublished autobiography that he had been told in interrogation to never speak about the event. He said the police had threatened him should he not follow their orders.
“If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews of the organisation … they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death,'” he wrote.
Christopher was later charged with possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging it, a significant downgrade from treason.
However, this wouldn’t be the attempted murderer’s only brush with the law.