Friday, Mar 22, 2019 | Last Update : 11:53 AM IST

49 killed in racial ‘terror’ attack on 2 mosques in New Zealand

AGENCIES
Published : Mar 16, 2019, 2:02 am IST
Updated : Mar 16, 2019, 2:11 am IST

Rightwing “terrorist” and prime attacker Brenton Tarrant, apparently, livestreamed the assault that triggered a lockdown of the New Zealand city.

This image taken  from the alleged shooter’s video, which was filmed on Friday, shows him as he drives and he looks over to three guns on  the passenger side  of his vehicle in  New Zealand.	(Photo: AP)
 This image taken from the alleged shooter’s video, which was filmed on Friday, shows him as he drives and he looks over to three guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. (Photo: AP)

Christchurch: Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people in New Zealand as authorities charged an Australian man in his late 20s, arrested three others and defused two explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.

Rightwing “terrorist” and prime attacker Brenton Tarrant, apparently, livestreamed the assault that triggered a lockdown of the New Zealand city.

In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed. The gunmen struck close to 2 pm during the Friday prayers, barging into the mosques and shooting at will.

The carnage also continued outside where passers-by were targeted.

A video showed that a gunman spent more than two minutes inside one of the mosques spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down. At least 41 people were killed at Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch and seven died at the Linwood Avenue mosque. Another person died in hospital.

Police is treating the incident as terrorism and motive racial. Tarrant was charged with murder and is likely to appear in a Christchurch court on Saturday. Apart from Tarrant, three others, including a woman, were arrested. Two of these were taken into custody at the scene with guns while the fourth person may have had nothing to do with the attack. Several guns were recovered from both mosques. Two IEDs on a vehicle were disabled by the police later.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ms Ardern said, adding that national security threat level was being raised to the second-highest level.

Without naming Tarrant, Christchurch police commissioner Mike Bush said that a man had been charged with murder. He did not mention the other three suspects and did not say whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the four people arrested in Christchurch was an Australian-born citizen.

According to Australian media reports, Tarrant worked as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton between 2009 and 2011, before he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe.

The victims of the shooting also included people of Indian origin. “As per updates received from multiple sources there are nine missing persons of Indian nationality/ origin. Official confirmation still awaited. Huge crime against humanity. Our prayers with their families,” tweeted Indian high commissioner Sanjiv Kohli.

According to media reports, Tarrant allegedly claimed responsibility for the shootings and left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist. The 74-page document ‘The Great Replacement’ starts off quoting a Dylan Thomas poem, Do not go gentle into that good night, and then moves onto a rant about ‘white genocide’.

On a now-deleted Twitter account, Tarrant had posted photos of machine gun magazines and a link to his manifesto for his actions, ‘The Great Replacement’.

Shooting survivor Anwar Alsaleh was preparing for Friday prayers on the Muslim holy day at the Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch when the gunman walked in.

Mr Alsaleh hid in a bathroom and tried to call emergency services as shots rang out, he told a reporters, adding that he heard the gunman say an expletive about Muslims and “We’re going to kill you today.”

He said he heard people begging for their lives. “They shot them until they died,” he said.

At the Linwood Avenue mosque, about five kilometres away, Syed Mazharuddin said a man wearing body armour and a helmet opened fire.

“Just around the entrance door there were elderly people sitting there praying and he just started shooting at them,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

Witness Len Peneha said 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.

Mr 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.

Mr Peneha 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.

US President Donald Trump called the terror attacks on two mosques in New Zealand a “horrible massacre” and offered US assistance to its ally.

Queen Elizabeth-II, in a message, said, “I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch... At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.”

New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees. Last year, the Prime Minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020.

Tags: christchurch mosque shootings, jacinda ardern