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Police officers guard the area close to the Masjid al Noor mosque after the shooting in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. Photo: Tessa Burrows/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers guard the area close to the Masjid al Noor mosque after the shooting in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. Photo: Tessa Burrows/AFP/Getty Images

NewsMarch 15, 2019

The darkest day: at least 49 dead in terrorist attack on NZ Muslim community

Police officers guard the area close to the Masjid al Noor mosque after the shooting in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. Photo: Tessa Burrows/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers guard the area close to the Masjid al Noor mosque after the shooting in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. Photo: Tessa Burrows/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens are dead following racially motivated mosque shootings in Christchurch. The attack was streamed on global social media channels by the offender, who is now in Police custody. Jacinda Ardern said NZ was targeted because ‘we represent diversity’

This article was updated through the course of March 15; the original version, published at 3.25pm, is archived here

  • A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, three others in custody
  • Prime minister Jacinda Ardern condemns ‘terrorist attack’
  • Phone number for anyone concerned about friends and family: 0800 115 019. Missing persons can be registered on this website.
  • Suspect not on any watchlist in NZ or Australia
  • Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has confirmed one of those in custody is an Australian citizen
  • Shootings occurred at two mosques in Christchurch, one at Deans Ave and one at Linwood Ave
  • Police say two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in one vehicle
  • Controlled explosions in Auckland described as precautionary and unrelated
  • The lockdown on schools has now been lifted. Police are reassuring that a large Police presence remains in the city, and that “the safety of the community is our priority.”
  • Mosques nationwide advised to shut doors until further notice
  • Flights to and from Christchurch affected

New Zealand’s Muslim community has come under attack from an apparent white supremacist terrorist, with at least 49 people killed in Christchurch. The New Zealand prime minister has described the mass murder as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and a clear terrorist act. Dozens more are critically injured.

The attack was streamed live on Facebook by the offender, who was wearing a GoPro. The man’s Facebook account was deleted after complaints to the platform by Police.

The Spinoff has established that in an online post on a forum separate from Facebook, left minutes before the attack on a mosque near Hagley Park began, a man said it was time to “stop shitposting” and “carry out an attack against the invaders”.

The man begins by saying, “let’s get this party started”. In a separate “manifesto” posted online, the man describes himself as a “white man” in his late 20s, born in Australia. The document contains dozens of pages filled with violent, racist language.

The Spinoff is not naming the man or the site.

Some media outlets have published portions of the live-streamed video footage. At 4.50pm, NZ Police tweeted that they were trying to have any footage removed and urged people not to share it, saying, “Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”

An eyewitness inside the mosque told RNZ he heard shots fired and “there was blood everywhere”. Another eyewitness told RNZ a man wearing a helmet and glasses and a military-style jacket opened fire inside the mosque. He said a woman and child were among the injured and the offender had an automatic weapon.

The shootings occurred at two mosques, one on Deans Ave and one on Linwood Ave, and two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a vehicle. Speaking shortly after the attack, NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush said: “We are not assuming this is contained to Christchurch. We have no other information to suggest [there are wider risks] but at this point in time we should never make assumptions.”

Police Commissioner Mike Bush speaks to media during a press conference on the Christchurch shootings (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

In a press conference later in the evening, Bush said it was clearly “a very well-planned event”. He said there were not thought to be other threats following the Christchurch incident, and that the suspect, who has been charged and is expected to appear in court on Saturday morning, had not been on the radar of New Zealand or Australian forces.

He said that controlled explosions at Britomart in Auckland were thought to have been unrelated to the Auckland attack and had been undertaken as a precaution.

Speaking to media, Jacinda Ardern said: “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence … Please be assured that Police are actively monitoring the situation.”

Ardern, who is expected to travel tonight or early tomorrow to Christchurch, said: “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’re 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 that share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

Commissioner Bush said police are doing all they can to resolve the incident, and urged people to stay vigilant and report and suspicious behaviour.

Extra support is being brought into Christchurch from other parts of the country.

Bush earlier asked mosques nationwide to shut their doors, and asked people in the area to refrain from visiting mosques until further notice.

Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand told The Spinoff in a statement: “Teams from across Facebook have been working around the clock to respond to reports and block content, proactively identify content which violates our standards and to support first responders and law enforcement. We are adding each video we to find to an internal data base which enables us to detect and automatically remove copies of the videos when uploaded again. We urge people to report all instances to us so our systems can block the video from being shared again.”

Following a number of incidents in which violent murders and other graphic content were broadcast on Facebook Live, in May 2017 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would increase the size of its staff that reviewed flagged content by 66%, adding 3000 people to its 4500-strong community operations team around the world.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen people hurting themselves and others on Facebook — either live or in video posted later,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post at the time.

“If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly. We’re working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner — whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down.”

Police and the Red Cross have activated the Restoring Family Links website, where people can register missing loved ones or register themselves as safe. They have also set up a phone number for anyone concerned about friends or family: 0800 115 019.

A Give A Little crowd-funding page has been set up for victims of the attacks and their families (on Friday night the page was crashing on account of high traffic).

This post has been updated through the day.

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