WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Multiple fatalities were inflicted at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday when at least one gunman opened fire on worshippers, police said.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at the mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
New Zealand police detained four people after the shootings.
“Four are in custody. Three are men and one is a woman,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters in Wellington.
Police advised people to stay away from mosques.
“As far as we know,” the fatalities occurred at two mosques, Bush said.
New Zealand mosque shootings
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the centre of Christchurch city.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
Media reported that a gunman opened fire inside mosque in Christchurch’s Hagley Park district. There were reports of armed police at a second mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
People in centre of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.
Police did not immediately comment on whether the incident took place in the mosque or nearby. There is no official confirmation on casualties.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told broadcaster One News that he had seen three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.
“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.
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message.
“They are shaken but good.”
Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)