50 killed in attack on Christchurch mosques, New Zealand
50 people were killed in two consecutive terrorist mass shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 13h40 and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at about 13h55. The attacks killed 50 people and injured 50 more. The suspect, a 28-year-old Australian man and white supremacist described in media reports as part of the ‘alt-right’, was arrested and charged with murder. The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally observed since the mid-2010s. The suspect published a manifesto and live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live. It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.
Al Noor Mosque, Riccarton
The gunman began shooting worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, Riccarton, at around 13h40. Police received the first emergency call at 13h41. Between three and five hundred people may have been inside the mosque attending Jumu'ah (Friday prayer) at the time of the shooting. A neighbour of the mosque told reporters that he saw the gunman flee and drop what appeared to be a firearm in the driveway. The witness said the gunman appeared to be wearing military-style clothing.
The gunman live-streamed the first 17 minutes of the attack on Facebook Live, starting with the drive to the mosque and ending with the drive away. Moments before the shooting, the gunman played a traditional marching song of the British military called "The British Grenadiers", "Gas Gas Gas", a song by Italian musician Manuel Karamori used in the popular anime adaptation of the manga series Initial D, and "Serbia Strong", a Serb nationalist song from the Bosnian War (1992–1995) celebrating Radovan Karadžić, who was found guilty of genocide against Bosnian Muslims. Just before the shooting, the gunman appeared to be greeted by one of the worshippers, who said "Hello, brother" and was amongst the first people to be killed.
The gunman spent several minutes inside the mosque, shooting indiscriminately at the attendees. He killed three people near the entrance, and many others inside a larger room. During the attack Naeem Rashid charged at the gunman but was shot; he later died in hospital. The gunman approached wounded victims, firing at them multiple times. He then left the mosque and fired on people outside. He went on to retrieve another weapon from his vehicle before returning to the mosque to murder more victims, many of whom were already wounded and unable to escape. The gunman then exited the mosque for a second time and killed a woman near the footpath as she pleaded for help. He returned to his car and fled the scene shortly thereafter. The video showed that the gunman shot other civilians near the area and drove away at a high speed.
When the gunman returned to the car, it was playing the song "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The footage stopped as the gunman was driving along Bealey Avenue, heading in the direction of the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Linwood Islamic Centre
A second series of shootings commenced at about 13h55. at the Linwood Islamic Centre, a mosque five kilometres away from Al Noor. The gunman shot several people outside the mosque, killing seven.
The mosque's acting imam credited a worshipper named Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah with stopping the attack before the gunman could enter the building. Wahabzadah told media that he ran at the gunman hoping to distract him from attacking people in the mosque. When the gunman retreated, he took a credit card reader, ran after the gunman and threw the machine at him. The gunman took a firearm from his car and fired at Wahabzadah, who took cover among nearby cars and retrieved an empty shotgun the gunman had dropped. The gunman continued firing at the mosque. When the gunman returned to his car again, Wahabzadah threw the shotgun and shattered a car window or windscreen. The gunman then drove away.
Emergency services response
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that police were at the first mosque within minutes of the incident being reported at 13h42. In response to criticism that police were too slow to react to the attacks, the police defended the 36 minutes it took to arrest Tarrant. District Commander John Price said "That is an incredibly fast response time. You had a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city."
St John Ambulance sent 20 ambulances and other vehicles to the mosques. Most of the wounded were taken to Christchurch Hospital. 48 people with gunshot wounds, including young children, were treated at the hospital, with some taken to other hospitals within Christchurch and nationally. Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan.
Authorities advised all mosques in the country to close until further notice and sent police to secure various sites in Christchurch. All Air New Zealand Link services departing Christchurch Airport were cancelled as a precaution, due to the absence of security screening at the regional terminal. Security was increased at Parliament in Wellington, including the cancellation of public tours. In Dunedin, the Armed Offenders Squad searched a house and cordoned off part of the surrounding street in Andersons Bay after the shooter indicated on social media that he had originally planned to target the city's Al Huda Mosque.
The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination was convened to coordinate the government response. Prime Minister Ardern, who was on public engagements in New Plymouth, returned to Wellington by air to receive official advice. For the first time in New Zealand history, the terrorism threat level was raised to high. Flags are also being flown at half-mast on all government buildings nationwide.
The attack killed 50 people: 42 at Al Noor Mosque, seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre and one who died in Christchurch Hospital. The ages of those killed ranged from 2 to 71. From Police Commissioner Mike Bush's update, as of 10h00 am on 17 March 2019, 50 people were injured, 36 people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, two of whom were in a serious condition, with one child at Starship children's hospital in Auckland. National futsal player and IT entrepreneur Atta Elayyan was among those killed.