New Zealand police are hunting “an active shooter” in the centre of Christchurch city on Friday after shootings at two mosques left several people dead.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said one person is in custody but police are still hunting for an active shooter after the violent attacks, which led to “multiple fatalities.”
The deaths so far were reported at two locations, he said, adding that police are unsure if there are threats in other areas.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,” Bush said.
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Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press 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.
Peneha said he went into the mosque to try and help: “I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
She said the perpetrator “has no place in New Zealand.” She said the victims, some of whom may have been migrants or even refugees to New Zealand were part of their community — “they are us,” she said.
All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told One News that he saw three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
“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.
Another eyewitness told One News, “The gunman came through the main entrance, everyone ran to the back doors to save themselves, people hid under cars and jumped the fence to escape. I hid at a house next to the mosque and the firing went on and on. “I saw a guy reloading and changing a gun then start firing again.”
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying that the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
“The players are shaken up but fine,” Villavarayen was quoted as saying.