A gunman opened fire in two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand on Thursday, killing at least 49 people and injuring another 20, police confirmed.
On Friday, police were still determining whether there was more than one shooter, and schools, offices and other premises were closed as a precaution. By late afternoon, they had defused improvised explosive devices attached to a car, The Wall Street Journal reports.
On Thursday, shortly after the attack, police called on people “in central Christchurch to stay indoors and report any suspicious behavior immediately to 111.”
A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder, while another two men and a woman, all of whom were armed, were taken in custody. One of the suspects was later released, after it was determined the individual was not involved in the attack. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said they are assessing the role of the other two people.
The identities of the suspects were not disclosed to the public, but Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of them was an Australian-born citizen.
At a Friday press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the incident a “terrorist attack” and said it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” She also said the attacker’s “extremist views” have no place in New Zealand. Ardern pointed out that none of the suspects was on any national security agency watch list.
New Zealand has long been considered a peaceful nation, priding itself on multiculturalism.
“Clearly what has happened is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. Many of the people affected by this act of extreme violence will be from our refugee and migrant communities. New Zealand is their home. They are us,” the prime minister added.
The shooter posted video footage of the attack, which was removed shortly after police flagged it to social media platforms.