Political and Islamic leaders across the world have expressed their disgust at the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday as some countries revealed that their citizens had been caught up in the bloodshed.
Forty people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a terrorist attack.
The massacre by at least one gunman during Friday prayers in the city of Christchurch was the country’s worst ever mass shooting.
“We believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence,” Ardern said.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.
One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
“He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.
Ardern said 30 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, the city’s main mosque, and another 10 at a mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” she said.
New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four people – three men and a woman – had been taken into custody.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the men in custody was Australian.
Police said IEDs – improvised explosive devices – were found with a vehicle they stopped.
The online video footage, which appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to the gunman’s head, showed red petrol canisters in the back of his car, along with weapons.
All mosques in New Zealand had been asked to shut their doors, police said.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Political and Islamic leaders across Asia expressed their disgust at the deadly shooting.
“Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.
She was earlier cited by media as saying six Indonesians had been inside the mosque when the attack occurred, with three managing to escape and three unaccounted for.
There are 331 Indonesians in Christchurch, including 134 students, the foreign ministry said.
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the biggest party in its ruling coalition, said one Malaysian had been wounded in the attack he described as a “black tragedy facing humanity and universal peace”.
“I am deeply saddened by this uncivilised act, which goes against humanistic values and took the lives of civilians,” he said in a statement.
“We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand.”
New Zealand authorities confirmed “multiple” deaths but they did not say how many or identify any victims.
New Zealand media reported “dozens” of dead.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson condemned what he called a “racist and fascist” attack.
“This attack shows the point which hostility to Islam and enmity to Muslims has reached,” Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
“We have seen many times Islamophobic discourse against Islam and Muslims turning into a perverse and murderous ideology. The world must raise its voice against such discourse and must say stop to Islamophobic fascist terrorism,” he said.
The founder of India's All India Muslim Personal Board, a non-government body of scholars, Kamal Faruqui, said the attack was “highly condemnable”.
“An anti-Muslim virus is spreading across the world,” he told Reuters.
“People of all religions should be very worried.”
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter three Afghans had been wounded.
“My thoughts are with the family of Afghan origin who’ve been shot and killed at this heinous incident.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal condemned the incident on social media, using the hashtag #pakistanagainstterror.
Ordinary people expressed their horror online about a widely disseminated video of a man apparently indiscriminately shooting people inside a mosque with an assault rifle.
The video has yet to be confirmed by authorities as being posted by a shooter involved in the attack.
“Feeling very sick, that person is brainless and a savage,” said one Indonesian twitter user who identified himself as Farhan Adhitama.
Ardern, said many of those caught up in the shootings may have been migrants and refugees.
“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand,” she said. – Reuters