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49 Dead In 'Terrorist Attack' At 2 Mosques In Christchurch, New Zealand

The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-staff on the parliament building in Wellington, after a shooting incident in Christchurch.
Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images
The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-staff on the parliament building in Wellington, after a shooting incident in Christchurch.

Updated at 4:37 a.m. ET

Forty-nine people are dead and at least 20 are seriously injured in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says "can now only be described as a terrorist attack."

Two mosques in Christchurch were attacked Friday around the time of afternoon prayers. A male in his late 20s has been charged with murder, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. Three other people were apprehended, though one of those people might not have been involved in the shootings. Bush said it would be "improper" to confirm the identity of the person charged at this point.

Bush said police have recovered "a number of firearms" from both crime scenes. There were also "possibly" two improvised explosive devices on one vehicle, Bush said. Police have disabled one and are in the process of disabling the other, he said.

Bush said 41 people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque near Hagley Park in the city's center; seven were killed at a mosque in Linwood, a few miles away. One person taken to a hospital died from injuries sustained during the attack.

Ardern said the attack by people with "extremist views" was "unprecedented — unlike any that we have experienced before."

None of those in custody were on any active security watch lists, either in New Zealand or Australia, Bush said.

New Zealanders must continue to feel secure in their country, Ardern said. "We represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack."

One of the individuals in custody is Australian, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Christchurch Hospital said it was treating 48 patients for gunshot wounds, CNN reported.

Bush said earlier that police haven't been able to identify the victims yet because the mosques are still on lockdown.

New Zealand Police saythey have asked all mosques across the country to "shut their doors."

"It is clear this is one of New Zealand's darkest days," Ardern said earlier Friday. "What has happened is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."

"Many of those affected may be migrants, maybe refugees ... They are us. ... The perpetrator is not. ... There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence," Ardern said.

Bush urged anyone who had intended to visit a mosque in New Zealand not to go, to "close your doors until you hear from us again." The public was being urged to stay indoors.

Bush said he was aware of reports that the shooter had live-streamed an attack online. "We are doing everything we can to remove it," he said.

This is a breaking news story. Some things reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").
Richard Gonzales
Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
Barbara Campbell