An injured person is loaded in an ambulance following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.
An injured person is loaded in an ambulance following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. AAP Image - SNPA, Martin Hunter

Three in custody after Christchurch terror attack

UPDATE SAT 5:59am:

  • Dozens dead, scores injured as gunman opens fire at two Christchurch mosques - three people arrested
  • Gunman livestreams as he opens fire inside Al Noor Mosque, charged with murder
  • Australian who identifies himself as "Brenton Tarrant" wrote a 73-page manifesto declaring his intentions - was not on security watch lists
  • Military disarms a number of improvised explosives attached to two cars in the city
  • Bomb scare at Britomart train station in Auckland
  • Police raid property in Dunedin

New Zealand is reeling after an "unprecedented" terrorist attack in Christchurch, in which an Australian gunman targeted two mosques and killed at least 49 people.

Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old attacker who identified himself on Twitter, livestreamed the horrific massacre to Facebook in a 17-minute clip. He has now been charged with murder.

He was heavily armed and fitted two improvised explosive devices to his vehicle, which the military later diffused.

As Muslims gathered for Friday afternoon prayer, Tarrant opened fire in both Al Noor Mosque in the city's centre and Masjid mosque in the suburb of Linwood.

At least 49 people are dead and 48 others are being treated for gunshot wounds, all in varying conditions. Authorities warn the death toll could rise further.

Two other people have been arrested, described as the terrorist's "associates", while a third who was earlier apprehended is not connected to the attacks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the bloodshed as "one of New Zealand's darkest days" and has raised the terror threat level to high. Tensions across the country are high.

In Auckland on Friday night, the Britomart train station was locked down after the discovery of two unattended backpacks, which were destroyed by controlled explosion.

Late in the evening, police raided a property in Dunedin, some 360km south of Christchurch, in relation to the terrorist attacks.

Tarrant said on social media that his original target was a mosque in the town. A street is cordoned off with a large police presence at a home.

UPDATE 6.13PM: New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has told reporters the death toll has now increased to 49 lives. 

Reporters in Grafton in New South Wales have also confirmed the alleged terrorist behind the mass shooting at one of the two mosques was from the area.

Social media users also continue to share footage of the shooting that was live streamed on Facebook by the Australian extremist. 

New Zealand Police have urged those on social media to stop sharing the distressing video. 

One man has been charged with murder and mosques across New Zealand are under police protection.

Commissioner Bush said 41 people died after the first attack at the Masjid Al Noor mosque and seven others died after the second mosque attack on Linwood Ave. Another died in hospital.

He said that a man has been charged with murder and will appear in a Christchurch court tomorrow.

"Three other people were apprehended. We believe one of those persons who was armed and was at the scene may have had nothing to do with this incident," he said.

"The two other people that have been apprehended, again in possession of firearms in the general environment, we are working through to understand what their involvement is."

Bush also said that no government agency had any information about those in custody, and he had been in contact with Australian police.

"What I want to tell you is that no agency had any information about these people, and I can also tell you that I've been in contact with my Australian colleagues - they have no information on them at all either," he said.

Bloodied bandages are seen on the road following the shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: Martin Hunter/AAP
Bloodied bandages are seen on the road following the shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: Martin Hunter/AAP

UPDATE 5.45PM: A TOTAL 48 people including young children are being treated in Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said 200 family members were waiting on hospital grounds for news of their loved ones involved in the shooting. 

He said some services have been diverted to other hospitals, and urged people who didn't need to not to visit the hospital. 

"We envisage we will see an increasing demand for wellbeing support over the coming days and weeks as the reality and enormity of what has happened in our city today sinks in."

An armed police officer is seen following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque. Picture: AAP
An armed police officer is seen following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque. Picture: AAP

UPDATE 4.45PM: NEW Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed today's terrorist attack has taken the lives of at least 40 people. 

Another 20 people have been seriously injured.

Ms Ardern said there were separate offenders at the two mosques targeted in the attack.

The offender at at least one mosque was an Australian-born right-wing terrorist confirmed to have lived in Grafton in New South Wales.

Eyewitness who helped victims in the aftermath of the shooting told local reporters multiple members of individual families were shot down.

One tradesman described how he and his colleagues nursed shooting victims, including a little girl believed to be five years old.

Her father is believed to have died in the attack.

UPDATE 4PM: PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed an Australian terrorist stole the lives of New Zealanders in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch. 

He said Australia grieves with New Zealand as family. 

Morrison said the attacker was a right-wing extremist.  

"We grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist," he said.

"I particularly want to express my sincere prayers and thoughts for those New Zealanders, indeed Australians of Islamic faith today, who have been the subject of this callous right-wing extremist attack." 

As Australia and New Zealand respond to the attack, Queensland Senator Fraser Anning has issues a racist media release, blaming the victims for their own deaths. 

In a widely condemned release, he said the cause of today's deadly attack was the immigration program that allowed Muslim people to migrate to New Zealand. 

He made no mention of the Australian attacker, or of the attacker's immigration to New Zealand.

UPDATE 2.45PM: MULTIPLE people have been killed after an Australian gunman opened fire at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Police have taken three men and a woman into custody after the gunman shot at worshippers with his semi-automatic weapon as they gathered for Friday prayers.

The gunman has been confirmed to be Brenton Tarrant, 28, who he wrote a 73-page manifesto declaring his evil intentions.

NSW Counter-terrorism police are now investigating his background after reports the man, believed to be from Grafton, is the shooter.

Tarrant live-streamed the moment he opened fire at the Masjid Al Noor mosque, killing at least 27 and injuring up to 50 others.

New Zealand police said there were multiple explosive devices attached to cars that were stopped by officers.

UPDATE 1.20PM: NEW Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says today is one of the darkest days in New Zealand's history. 

She said she could not comment on the shooter's nationality. NZ Herald reported the shooter was Australian. 

In the days leading up to the attack, the man suspected of being behind the attack posted photos to his now-suspended Twitter account of what appeared to be guns, ammunition and a military-style vest.

The weaponry pictured is scrawled with references to ancient battles and more recent attacks against Muslims.

Video footage he live streamed on social media shows two rifles similarly covered in names and references to other attacks.

The chilling POV video, verified by Storyful, shows a gunman storm into the Al Noor Mosque, shooting indiscriminately at anyone he sees.

He reloads his rifle multiple times and walks in and out of rooms in an apparent attempt to make sure all people inside are dead.

He leaves the mosque after a few minutes and then walks back out the front gate, where he shoots a volley of gunfire up and down the street.

Social media users, including New Zealand Police, have pleaded with others to stop sharing the footage.

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. AP Photo - Mark Baker

Ms Ardern said police had advised there may be other offenders excluding the shooter in custody.

She said she could not confirm the number of deaths or injuries, but said it would be obvious to those who have seen images out of Christchurch that this was a significant event.

She described it has an unprecedented act of violence that had no place in New Zealand.

"There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts of unprecedented violence." 

UPDATE 1PM: SOCIAL media users are begging others on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to stop sharing footage that appears to be from the horrific mosque attack in Christchurch. 

The video was from a Facebook Live stream believed to have been broadcast by one of the shooters.

The graphic video shows injured victims inside what appears to be inside Al Noor Mosque. News.com.au reports it has been verified. 

The video has quickly been shared on both Facebook and Twitter despite pleas not to spread it further from concerned users.

"The Christchurch shooter clearly wanted that horrific footage shared. Don't do it. Don't watch it. It is a nightmare. Hearts are with New Zealand & muslim friends. What a horrible day. Numb. @Twitter take down his account ASAP," ABC reporter Sophie McNeill tweeted.

New Zealand police said one person was in custody but police were unsure if other locations continued to be under threat. 

At least two mosques were attacked, both in Christchurch. 

A police spokesman urged anyone in New Zealand considering going to a mosque should stay at home. 

"Close your doors until you hear from us again," he said.

He confirmed there were multiple fatalities across both mosques.

"We have mobilised every police resource in the Canterbury region," he said. 

"It's a very serious and grave situation."

 

UPDATE 12:31PM: Police are responding to at least two critical incidents in Christchurch, New Zealand after gunmen opened fire inside two busy mosques.

There are reports of up to six people dead with emergency service vehicles at Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and Linwood Masjid mosque.

Police described it as an "evolving situation" and implored residents to stay indoors. All Christchurch schools have been locked down.

An eyewitness told Stuff NZ he had seen at least four people lying on the ground at one mosque and had seen "blood everywhere".

The photographer working for the publication also said he had seen three seriously injured people lying on the steps of the mosque.

There are reports that about six people have been taken into Christchurch Hospital. There is also a heavy police presence at the hospital as staff brace for dozens of reported casualties.

UPDATE: 12:18PM: Police are warning locals about a possible bomb found in a crashed car near the shooting.

The bomb is located inside a beige Subaru that crashed nearly three kilometres from the Al Noor Mosque where the shooting took place.

"You're not safe here, there's a bomb in that car," a senior police officer told a Guardian reporter.

EARLIER: POLICE are responding to a critical incident in Christchurch, New Zealand after dozens of shots were heard being fired inside a mosque.

Ten emergency service vehicles are at the scene and police said it is an "evolving situation".

Police are on alert in Christchurch following the mosque massacres.
Police are on alert in Christchurch following the mosque massacres. Supplied

An eyewitness told Stuff NZ he had seen at least four people lying on the ground and "blood everywhere".

The photographer working for the publication also said he had seen three seriously injured people lying on the steps of the mosque.

There are reports that about six people have been taken into Christchurch Hospital, two with serious injuries.

Police are responding to a shooting in Christchurch. Picture: NZ Herald
Police are responding to a shooting in Christchurch. Picture: NZ Herald

Another eyewitness claims he saw a man wearing a "helmet and glasses and a military style jacket" enter the mosque and open fire.

It's understood around 300 people were inside for afternoon prayers when the shooting happened.

New Zealand Police urged anyone in Christchurch to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour.

"Police are currently responding to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at around 1.40pm," police said in a statement. "Armed police have been deployed."

Police have also locked down all Christchurch schools "in response to a serious ongoing firearms incident".

A business owner said he had heard at least 20 shots fired.

"I heard 20 or more gunshots I thought something happened and the people were running on the other side of Deans Avenue and now I can see so many police."

The Christchurch mosque. Picture: Supplied
The Christchurch mosque. Picture: Supplied

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her afternoon appointments and is due to speak about the shooting later today.

Some of the Bangladesh cricket team were near the mosque when the shooting happened and were filmed by an ESPN journalist running away from the building.

Appearing visibly distressed in the video, the team were filmed running back through Hagley Park back to the Oval.

"The players are shaken up but fine. I spoke to one of them shortly after (the incident), the team's strength and conditioning coach Mario Villavarayen said.

"They didn't see anything but heard gunshots. They were at the ground (Hagley Oval) and just started running.

"The coaching staff were all at the hotel. The players just started running when they heard the shots. I don't know how many (shots) there were. This happened at about 1.45pm."

More to come.

The locations of the two shootings in Christchurch
The locations of the two shootings in Christchurch NZ Herald

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