At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured after the mass shootings in the city of Christchurch, in a carefully planned and unprecedented attack that has shocked the usually peaceful nation.
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved.
Police are aware of a video shared online and broadcast live during the attack, which purports to show a gunman walking into an unnamed mosque and opening fire.
The New York Times reports the camera used to stream the shootings was worn by the gunman as he attacked the Al Noor Mosque. The 17-minute video showed the man dressed in black shooting at worshipers and “piles of bodies” with a semiautomatic rifle.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said video was quickly taken down.
“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we removed both the shooter’s Facebook account and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” she said.
Also in a social media post just before the attack, an account that is believed to belong to one of the attackers posted a link to an 87-page manifesto that was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas and explanations for an attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist. The manifesto was not signed.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the people detained was an Australian-born citizen.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Friday night that a man had been charged with murder. He did not say whether police believed the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern alluded at a news conference to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees, “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”
As for the suspects, Ardern said, “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.