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Politics

Australian charged in New Zealand mosque shooting that killed 49

Trump condemns 'monstrous' attack that was livestreamed by the shooter

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch on March 15.   © AP

SYDNEY -- Shootings at two mosques in Christchurch killed 49 people and injured dozens of others on Friday in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern characterized as a "well planned" terrorist attack.

Video footage widely circulated on social media was apparently taken by a gunman wearing a body camera and livestreamed as the attack unfolded. The footage begins with the approach to the mosque. The shaft of the gun comes into view from the bottom of the screen. Once inside the mosque, bullets begin spraying from the barrel.

Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. Three people are in custody including one Australian man in his late 20s who had been charged with murder. He will appear in court on Saturday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said that he had talked with Ardern by phone "to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks."

Trump had been praised in an manifesto that the accused gunman had posted online. The president is "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," the man wrote.

Trump told reporters that he had not seen the manifesto and that he does not think white nationalism is a rising threat in the world. "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems," the president said.

On Friday, several Australian media outlets published the contents of the manifesto. It says one reason for the attack was to "show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands."

Police called on citizens to remain indoors as other conspirators may be at large. Nearby schools and other facilities were temporarily closed.

"It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said, adding that the incident "does appear to have been well planned."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 41 people were killed at the Noor mosque on Deans Avenue in central Christchurch and seven at the Linwood mosque. Another victim died while being treated at a hospital.

 

Police escort people away from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019.   © AP

The first shooting took place at around 1:30 p.m., according to local media. About 300 people were at the mosque for services.

A witness told a television news crew that the shooting lasted for about 20 minutes, with the man firing the gun moving throughout the mosque.

A man who returned to the mosque after the shooting told local TV reporters that "it was an unbelievable sight. More than 20 people fell to the floor, some died and some were screaming."

Ardern said New Zealand's values "will not and cannot be shaken by this attack."

"You may have chosen us ... we utterly reject and condemn you."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the "vicious, murderous attack."

Australia and New Zealand have been accepting an increasing number of immigrants from Asia and the Middle East. Some analysts point out that the presence of anti-immigrant extremists may have been behind the attack.

According to a 2013 census by New Zealand, there were 46,000 Muslims in the country, about 1% of the population but an increase of 28% from 2006. In Australia, 2.6% of the population is Muslim.

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