Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 1 News List

‘Extremist’ kills 49 in NZ mosque attacks

‘DARKEST DAYS’:The main suspect allegedly published a racist ‘manifesto’ on social media before live-streaming the shootings of people in two mosques in Christchurch

AFP, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand

Police officers guard an area near the Masjid al-Noor mosque after a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A “right-wing extremist” armed with semi-automatic weapons yesterday rampaged through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers, killing 49 worshipers and wounding dozens more.

The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as she guided a shocked nation on one of its “darkest days.”

The attacker live-streamed footage of him going room to room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.

A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been arrested and charged with murder. He is set to appear at the Christchurch District Court early today.

Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack was unknown.

The chief suspect allegedly published a racist “manifesto” on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced and details of two years of preparation and radicalization leading up to the shootings.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”

Two improvised explosive devices were found in a car and neutralized by the military, police said.

Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”

His two targets were the Masjid al-Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more victims died. Another victim died in a hospital.

About 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.

The survivors included a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.

“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds it started again. It must have been an automatic — no one could pull a trigger that quick,” said the man, who did not wish to be named.

“Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood,” he added.

New Zealand police described the footage shot by the gunman as “extremely distressing” and warned netizens that they could be liable for up to 10 years in jail for sharing the “objectionable content.”

In addition to the footage, a number of pictures were posted to a social media account showing a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.

The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing about 50 murders per year in the entire country of 4.8 million and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place.

Police, who initially imposed a citywide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes and the threat level in the nation was raised from “low” to “high.”

In Auckland, 1,000km away, two unattended bags left near a railway station were detonated by military explosives experts.

Police also raided a property in Dunedin, which they believe is linked to the attack, and evacuated nearby residents. The southeastern city was named in the suspect’s manifesto as the original target for his attack.

Police warned Muslims not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand” in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.

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