At least 49 people were killed and dozens more injured in a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday when a gunman opened fire inside two mosques.
The shootings were categorized as a terrorist attack.
“It’s something that we never expected to have happen here,” Christchurch MP Gerry Brownlee told “Good Morning America.” “We’re a relatively small population, and while we are ethnically quite diverse, we live very peaceable lives. And this, as many have seen, has shattered our innocence.”
Brownlee, who said he lives a short distance from one of the shooting sites, said, “Almost everyone will know someone or have a connection with the families of someone who has been either killed or seriously wounded today.”
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a press conference Friday.
The gunman, who was dressed in tactical gear, appeared to livestream video of the shooting on social media, according to New Zealand police. He documented his trip from his car and into the worship center in central Christchurch, where he opened fire indiscriminately, police said.
Officials said they were working to remove “extremely distressing footage” taken at the scene and urged social media users not to share it.
Three people are in custody, including one Australian citizen. One man was charged with murder and is expected to appear in court Saturday, police said.
The shooter also opened fire in the surrounding area outside of the mosques. Police said they recovered two improvised explosive devices attached to vehicles in the area, but they were rendered safe.
Len Peneh, who lives next door to one of the mosques, told the AP that he “saw dead people everywhere” when he went inside to help.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Brownlee commended police for acting quickly and said the most important thing right now is to support those with connections to victims.
Of the 49 people killed, New Zealand police said 41 victims died at the Deans Avenue Mosque, seven at the Linwood Avenue Mosque and one at a hospital.
“New Zealand is a place where people have felt very secure and very free,” he added, “and this certainly has shaken that belief up today, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t end up with a permanent loss of the freedom that we so value.”
Ardern said none of the suspects were on any active terrorist watch lists and it was “not a matter of someone slipping under the radar.”
Morrison said the shootings were carried out by an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist, that has taken the lives — stolen the lives — in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders.”
Queen Elizabeth in a statement said she’s “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch.”
“Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured,” she said. “At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Friday, “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
I was on Ben Shapiro’s FB page reading some of the comments from fellow conservatives and am appalled and ashamed by people who “read the Quran” or one too many Robert Spencer books and think all Muslims and practicing Muslims (of Islam) are out to convert or kill all infidels; or are evil for reading what they believe to be an evil book. Whatever.
At issue is that these were innocent lives murdered for nothing more than religious bigotry, intolerance, and hatred. For those of you out there who praise the attack or do not harbor sympathy for the victims, what makes you any different, any better, than the handful of Palestinians who “danced in the streets” after the 9/11 attacks? We do not know these 49 individuals. Neither did the murderer. Blind hatred and bigotry guided his act of terrorism. Not much different than the blind hatred and intolerance of ISIS, al-Qaeda theology, and political Islamists. Two sides of the same coin, being a useful idiot to OBL’s desire to plunge the Muslim world into a war with the West. A reminder: The Myth that the Muslim World Celebrated the Attacks of 9/11.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.