New Zealand shootings: What we know so far

Terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch have left 49 dead and several injured. Here is what we know about the victims, suspects and more

As New Zealand and the rest of the world condemn the heinous terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, here’s everything we know so far about the victims, the people in custody, reaction from Canada and around the world, New Zealanders’ views on immigration, and more.

What do we know about the victims?

New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush says that 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch have been killed. It is reported that 41 of the victims died in al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue, while seven died at a mosque on Linwood Avenue. One victim died of their injuries in hospital. Forty-eight people in total were admitted to hospital in Christchurch for treatment—including children suffering from gunshot wounds.

So far, it has been reported that in the two shootings, four Pakistanis, three Turkish citizens, two Indonesians and three Bangladeshis have been wounded. Five other Pakistanis are missing after the attack according to Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

What have we heard from survivors of the attacks?

Razman Ali spoke to The Associated Press, describing the moment when the shooting broke out at one of the mosques shortly after Friday prayers began. He says he hid under a bench and stayed there until the gunfire stopped.

“I was the last guy to come out of the mosque after the shooting stopped and on the doors there were a lot of bodies,” said Ali.

An 18-year-old woman who was at al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue spoke to media about what she experienced, saying she was praying in the women-only room with her mother when she heard the gunshots. Mother and daughter ran outside to safety, while her father was caught in the gunfire and transported to hospital with injuries.

Farid Ahmed, a man in a wheelchair, was also present during one of the shootings, saying he saw a man get shot, describing the many bullet shells he witnessed on the floor.

Survivors at the Linwood mosque described a gunman in a black motorcycle helmet opening fire on praying people. Syed Ahmed, another eyewitness, says he saw eight people killed, including two friends.

What did Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern say after the attacks?

In the aftermath of the attacks, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern made the following statement:

It is with extreme sadness that I tell you that, as at 7 p.m. tonight, we believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence. Ten have died at Linwood Avenue Mosque, three of which were outside the mosque itself. A further 30 have been killed at Deans Avenue Mosque. There are also more than 20 seriously injured who are currently in Christchurch A&E.

It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack.

From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects’ vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed. There are currently four individuals who have been apprehended but three are connected to this attack who are currently in custody, one of which has publicly stated that they were Australian born.

These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and, in fact, have no place in the world. While we do not have any reason to believe at this stage that there are any other suspects, we are not assuming that, at this stage. The joint intelligence group has been deployed and police are putting all of their resources into this situation.

The defence force are currently transporting additional police staff to the region. Our national security threat level has been lifted from low, to high. This, I want to assure people, is to ensure that all our agencies are responding in the most appropriate way. That includes at our borders.

Many of you would have seen that Air New Zealand has canceled all turbo prop flights out of Christchurch tonight and will review the situation in the morning. Jet services both domestically and internationally are continuing to operate.

I say again, there is heightened security; that is, of course, so we can assure people of their safety, and the police are working hard to ensure that people are able to move around their city safely.

I have spoken this evening to the mayor of Christchurch and I intend to speak this evening to the imam, but I also want to send a message to those directly affected.

In fact, I am sure right now New Zealand would like me to share a message on their behalf, too.

Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice.

The place they actively came to, and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities who they loved and who loved them. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion.

For those of you who are watching at home tonight, and questioning how this could have happened here, we—New Zealand—we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not, and cannot, be shaken by this attack.

We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now—and tonight—is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy.

And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this.

You may have chosen us—but we utterly reject and condemn you.

What is the latest information from New Zealand police?

New Zealand Police commissioner Mike Bush released the following statement at 10:10 p.m. local time on March 15. We’ll update this when the police release new information.

Police continue to deal with what is an unprecedented event for New Zealand. The loss of life and the number of those who have been injured is tragic.

As the Prime Minister has stated, this has been designated a terrorist attack.

This has been an abhorrent event and my thoughts are with all of those affected in Christchurch. Be assured NZ Police stand with you all tonight.

We now know that 49 people have been killed in the attacks, 41 people at the Deans Avenue mosque, and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. One person died in hospital.

The number of those being treated in hospital has been updated to 48 people.

A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court tomorrow morning.

Two others remain in custody. Another person was arrested earlier today however that was not related to these events.

This is still an ongoing situation and Police has a significant number of staff on the ground in Christchurch

We are unable at this stage to provide details about matters leading up to the attacks. It is very early days and these matters will form part of the investigation.

There is an increased Police presence across Christchurch and surrounding areas. Our priority is to keep all New Zealanders safe.

There are community events planned across the country this weekend and there will be a visible Police presence at these events for safety and reassurance.

We thank the public for their ongoing co-operation and we would like to reassure members of the public that a large Police presence will remain in the city for the time being. The safety of the community is our priority.

Police wish to notify the public of the Restoring Family Links (RFL) website (link is external) where people can register missing persons or register themselves as alive. People living in New Zealand can also register missing persons on 0800 115 019.

Information will continue to be provided as it becomes available.

Our thoughts remain with all of those affected.

What do we know about the Al Noor Mosque shooter?

Police say that a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder.

The gunman livestreamed a 17-minute video of the al Noor mosque shooting, in which he identified himself as 28-year-old Australian national Brenton Tarrant. A social media account that allegedly belongs to Tarrant posted a link to an 87-page manifesto detailing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views before the attacks took place.

Social media posts alleged to be from the man featured photos of gun equipment emblazoned with names of people he admired, including Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bisonette.

Australian media have reported that Tarrant is from a town several miles north of Sydney and worked as a fitness trainer at a facility.

What did the Al Noor Mosque shooter’s manifesto say?

The 87-page, hate-filled manifesto blames immigration for ‘white genocide.’ The gunman also gave a list of reasons for the attack he was about to commit, including that he wanted it to further divide the ‘European people and the invaders currently occupying European soil.’ 

How are social media platforms handling the shooter’s video of the terror attack?

Brenton Tarrant broadcast a horrific 17-minute live Facebook video of the Al Noor Mosque shooting as it happened. The video then spread on YouTube and other websites that host disturbing online content. Both Facebook and YouTube committed to removing any of the footage, and any other content supportive of the attacks—but the social media giants struggled to combat the video’s proliferation. As CNN reports, Facebook’s systems failed to alert the company to the video. And as NBC reports, YouTube was unable to prevent copies of the video from appearing repeatedly on the platform.

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the U.K. Labour party, called for YouTube to halt all uploads until it can contain the problem. “If YouTube don’t have the capability to halt the spread of the NZ massacre videos—because they are going up faster than they can take them down—then they should suspend all new uploads at this time,” he tweeted.

Some news organizations were criticized sharply for making the shooter’s manifesto widely available, and publishing edited versions of the video.

What do we know about the second shooting at the Linwood Islamic Centre?

Police commissioner Bush would not confirm whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks, according to the Associated Press. While the alleged gunman has been identified in the case of the al Noor mosque due to the video evidence, not much has been publicly confirmed regarding the shooter at Linwood mosque.

What do we know about the four people in custody?

A 28-year-old man, presumably the man in the video, has been arrested and charged with murder. Two other men and one woman were brought into custody. One of those detained was later released. The police have not publicly identified any of the suspects nor have they revealed what connection they may have with the incident.

What do we know about the targeted mosques?

The al Noor mosque, or Masjid al-Nuur, is run by the Muslim Association of Canterbury and is located at 101 Deans Avenue, Christchurch. It’s reported that hundreds of people were in the mosque during the shooting for Friday prayers.

The Linwood Islamic Centre is located at 223A Linwood Av., Linwood, in Christchurch. Fewer details are available about the attack at Linwood. An eyewitness described a gunman in a black motorcycle helmet opening fire on praying people.

The two mosques are around seven kilometres or a 10 minute drive away from each other.

According to polling, what are New Zealanders’ attitudes towards immigration?

The Al Noor mosque gunman is reportedly Australian. Recent polling in both countries reveals different attitudes toward immigration in Australia and New Zealand.

The Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies released a paper last November, Australian Attitudes to Immigration:Coming Apart or Common Ground?, which dug into a YouGov Galaxy poll that surveyed Australians in the country’s highest- and lowest-income neighbourhoods. “A clear majority in both the most affluent (65 per cent) and the least affluent (77 per cent) postcodes supported an immigration cut or pause in relation to the specific issue of congestion,” the report says. “An overwhelming majority, regardless of postcode, therefore supported relieving population pressures on struggling infrastructure by cutting or pausing immigration.”

The poll also showed the vast majority of respondents supported a requirement that immigrants “attend a course about Australian values before granting them permanent residence.”

That’s just one poll. The Scanlon Foundation, in its own 2018 report, criticized many polls on immigration and offered its own polling: the foundation did observe an increase in skepticism of immigration levels, “but it differs in finding that this remains a minority perspective, with the majority (52 per cent) of the view that the intake is ‘about right’ or ‘too low.’ ”

In New Zealand, attitudes appear to be more welcoming. A June 2017 poll published by UMR Research showed 34 per cent of New Zealanders saw immigration as “positive” or “entirely positive,” compared to 23 per cent who saw it as “negative.” The combined positive number dropped to only 31 per cent for New Zealand citizens (versus migrants, who were more supportive of immigration). Forty per cent of those polled said new immigrants make the country “a better place to live,” with 23 per cent saying the opposite. An Ipsos New Zealand poll from last September showed generally positive, “and increasingly so,” views toward immigration. But the pollster expressed caution:

Despite New Zealanders feeling positive about what immigrants can offer New Zealand, the number feeling that immigration is having a positive impact has fallen from 47 per cent in 2016 to 41 per cent this year—and 53 per cent feel that immigration has led to too much pressure on the country’s public services such as transport, health and education (similar to 2017’s level of 52 per cent).

What are New Zealand’s policies on gun control?

New Zealand’s gun laws took heavy scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks (many major news organizations asked hard questions almost immediately). The country has faced unfavourable comparisons to neighbouring Australia, which passed sweeping new gun laws after a 1996 mass shooting that left 35 people dead and 23 injured in Tasmania. The effect of that dramatic policy shift was decisive: gun death rates dropped markedly in Australia and have remained low ever since.

New Zealand last made major changes to gun laws, first passed in 1983, following a mass shooting in 1990 that left 13 people—including two children—dead. Gun owners do have rules to follow: they must be 16 years of age and carry licences, pass background checks that consider mental health and domestic violence history, undergo firearm safety training, but no requirement forces most gun owners to register their weapons. (Most Western countries do require registration. Canada abolished its long-gun registry in 2012, but still requires registration of restricted firearms.) University of Sydney researchers estimate the number of privately owned guns in New Zealand at 1.5 million—or about one for every three citizens, up from 925,000 in 2005.

What are Canadian leaders saying?

Soon after the attacks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement condemning the attacks, and urging Canadians and others around the world to “recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat.”

Canadians across the country were appalled to wake up to news of the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed and injured so many people, including children.

We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy. To the people of New Zealand and to Muslim communities around the world: you are in our hearts and minds. We join in your grief and stand with you at this incredibly difficult time.

Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest. Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer.

To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat. Last night’s victims were fathers, mothers, and children. They were neighbours, friends, and family members. As with every life taken too soon, the full measure of their loss will never be known.

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. Hate has no place anywhere. We must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people—no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born—can feel safe and secure.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale expressed support with Canada’s “five eyes” allies, which include the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. He also announced no change to the country’s terror threat level.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer tweeted twice about the attacks, saying there are “no words strong enough to condemn this kind of vile hatred.”

Scheer later released a full statement.

As Canadians are learning the horrific details of last night’s terror attack at two New Zealand mosques, I wish to express both my deep sadness at the tragic loss of innocent life and my profound condemnation of this cowardly and hateful attack on the Muslim community.

Houses of worship, like the two mosques attacked last night, should be places where all people can meet freely and without fear. We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to ensure that they remain this way. We must condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the type of extreme and vile hatred that motivated this despicable act of evil.

On behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada we grieve with you the loss of 49 innocent lives—fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children—each one a victim of hate.

To the injured, and to the families and friends of all who were lost, we wish you strength on this dark day. To the Muslim community around the world and here at home in Canada, we stand with you and reaffirm our commitment to building a world where every people, of every faith, can live in freedom and peace together.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also tweeted that the attacks left him “heartbroken.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth may tweeted a short statement.

What are world leaders saying?

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the attacks—and disavowed controversial remarks made by Australian Senator Fraser Anning.

U.S. President Donald Trump spent most of the morning tweeting about the Mueller report, but he did offer “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the attack’s victims.

European leaders also expressed condolences to—and solidarity with—New Zealand.

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