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Friday, 15 March 2019 09:48

Gunmen attack mosques in New Zealand – 40 killed

Two mosques hit by automatic weapon fire - police arrest four suspects

Forty people have been killed and several others injured in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand's city of Christchurch in an unprecedented attack in the country.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that 20 people were in a serious condition after the attack.

Ardern said: "This is, and will be, one of New Zealand's darkest days."

"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand," Ardern said.

"They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four suspects, including a woman, were in custody.

Sam Clarke, a reporter with TVNZ, spoke with several people inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque when the shooting began. He said a man entered with an automatic weapon and began firing.

"A gunman - dressed in black with a helmet carrying a machine gun - came into the back of the mosque and started firing into the people praying there," said Clarke.

Police confirmed a second shooting occurred at the Linwood mosque during Friday prayers in the South Island city, but no details were immediately available.

Authorities have not described the scale of Friday's shootings but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. The death toll could not be confirmed.

Police warned worshippers not to visit mosques "anywhere in New Zealand". A lockdown imposed throughout Christchurch was called off at about 05:00 GMT.

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.

One man in the mosque, with blood stains all over his clothes, said he hid under a bench as the shooting took place. He said about 50 people were inside the building.

Clarke said some worshippers managed to escape through windows and doors but "many people had been hit, some as young as 16".

Commissioner Bush said local police officers apprehended the four suspects. "There's been some absolute acts of bravery," he said without elaborating.

He said a number of bombs were detected and neutralised on the attackers' automobiles.

"There were a few reports of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) strapped to vehicles which we were able to secure," said Bush.

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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