BREAKING NEWS: Multiple fatalities after shootings at two mosques in New Zealand

By BBC

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Emergency workers push a stretcher carrying a person into a hospital

(BBC) — Police in New Zealand say that there are multiple fatalities at two mosques after shootings in Christchurch.

One person is in custody but police believe there may be more offenders.

Armed police have been deployed in the city centre, and all schools in the area have been placed on lockdown.

“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”

Footage on social media appeared to show the gunman live-streaming as he entered the mosque with his weapon drawn.

Police are currently at a number of scenes and mosques across the country have been urged to shut their doors.

Worshippers are being told not to visit mosques until further notice.

The Bangladesh cricket team was heading to Friday prayers at the mosque, the Masjid Al Noor, when the shooting started, but all members are safe, a team coach told local media.

It is unclear how many people may have been injured, but one witness told the AP news agency that he heard dozens of gunshots.

One man who was inside the mosque told local media that there would normally be about 50 to 60 people worshipping inside the building.

The witness, whose clothes had been splattered with blood, claimed the shooting lasted for about 20 minutes, and claimed that the gunman methodically went from room to room.

He said he was one of the last people to leave the mosque – and said he was praying that the gunman would run out of bullets.

“It took me half an hour before my shaking stopped,” he added. “I don’t know whether my brother is safe or not.”

Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque – followed by people running from the building in terror.

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

Police did not comment on whether the incident took place inside the mosque or nearby.

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern described the shooting as an “extraordinary unprecedented act of violence”.

She said: “It is clear this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

“Many of those affected might be migrants to New Zealand. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home.

“There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence which it is clear this act was.”

Players and members of the Bangladesh cricket team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the mosque when the shooting broke out.

Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”

Strength and conditioning coach, Mario Villavarayen, told New Zealand media that the players did not see the shooter but heard shots.

“I spoke to one of them shortly after,” Mr Vllavarayen said. They didn’t see anything but heard gunshots. They were at the ground and just started running.

“The coaching staff were all at the hotel. The players just started running when they heard the shots.”

The team is currently in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.

Mass shootings are a rare occurrence in New Zealand, with the last being in 1990 in the small seaside town of Aramoana where 13 people were killed as well as gunman David Gray.

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