At least 49 people were killed in a shooting attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday, New Zealand police said.
At a press conference, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that 41 people had been killed at Al-Noor mosque, while seven died at Linwood mosque. One other victim died later in hospital.
“The total number of people who have died in this horrendous event are 49”, Bush said. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier said that 40 people had been killed.
“Our hearts go out to them and all of their families, all of their friends, all of their loved ones, and I want to assure everyone that we will do our best for them”, Bush added.
One man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, he said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Saturday.
The police chief refused to name the individual now that charges have been brought against him.
“For me to now go into details of who did what would not be proper”, he said.
Bush said that three other people have been apprehended, but it was still unclear what their involvement in the incident was.
“We have recovered a number of firearms from both of the scenes”, he said.
Dozens of other people were injured in the attack.
Canterbury District Health Board CEO, David Meates, said that 48 patients, including young children, were being treated for gunshot wounds, and that some of the injuries were critical.
An unknown number of additional patients with gunshot wounds were transferred to other facilities in the city, Meates added.
Ardern condemned the incident, which she said could "only be described as a terrorist attack".
"From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned", she said. One of the attackers said they were born in Australia, the prime minister added.
"These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world", Ardern said.
The prime minister also addressed the victims of the attack, many of whom had actively chosen to live in New Zealand "for its safety" where "they were free to practice their culture and religion".
"We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave of extremism", Ardern said.
"We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because 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."
She called on the country to support the community that has been targeted by the shootings, and to condemn the ideology that perpetrated the attack.
"You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you", Ardern said.
Although authorities believe that there were no further suspects at large, there was a strong police presence and road closures in parts of the city.
Bloodied bandages could be seen outside Al Noor Mosque and Armed Offenders Squad officers were pushing back members of the public, an EPA-EFE journalist reported.
“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence,” Ardern said at a press conference earlier ahead of a crisis meeting of national security agencies.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the perpetrators was an Australian-born citizen.
"I condemn the violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack that has stolen the lives of so many innocent New Zealanders as they went about their peaceful practice of worship at their mosques in Christchurch today," Morrison said.
The suspected Al Noor Mosque shooter live streamed the attack on social media for around 17 minutes, local media reported. In the footage he said his name and claimed to be a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man, the New Zealand Herald said.
The footage showed firearms with white writing and ammunition sitting on the front passenger seat and in the boot alongside petrol canisters before the gunman walked inside the mosque and opened fire on worshippers.
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team were heading to one of the mosques as an attack occurred.
“Our team was on their way to the mosque for Friday prayer. The incident happened before they reached the place," Bangladesh Cricket Board chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury told EFE.
The team is in the city to play the final test match of their New Zealand tour, which has now been canceled.