At least 49 people were killed and 20 were injured in a mass shooting at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, police confirmed.
New Zealand police said four people — three men and one woman — were in custody in connection with the mass shooting. The charged male suspect is expected to appear in court Saturday, Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters at a news conference. He said the principal suspect was a 28-year-old Australian-born citizen who claimed responsibility for the attacks.
One of those detained was later released, while Commissioner Bush said officers were working to understand if the other two were connected.
Police also found multiple explosive devices in a car belonging to one of the suspects.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said none of the suspects were on any security watch lists.
“These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand,” Ardern said.
The shooting, which is the largest in New Zealand’s history, was live-streamed by one of the gunmen to Facebook, filmed with a head-mounted camera. The footage showed him firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque.
The suspect who was charged reportedly published a manifesto before the attack outlining his intentions, in which he identified himself as an Australian citizen and espoused far right and anti-immigrant ideology.
In one sickening video too distressing to show, he executes people at point blank range – including one girl who lies on the floor screaming for help.
Witness Len Peneha told the Associated Press that he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try and help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Updated at 6:32 a.m.