CHRISTCHURCH/MELBOURNE    -   A white Australian right-wing terrorist who live-streamed his sickening shooting spree on Facebook is one of four people arrested over dual mosque attacks which left 49 worshippers dead and 48 injured on New Zealand’s ‘darkest day’.

The gunman, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant from Australia, stormed the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country’s South Island about 1.30pm, opening fire with a semi-automatic shotgun and a rifle on about 100 defenceless worshippers attending Friday prayers.

A sickening 17-minute video of the unfolding horror shows the self-confessed white supremacist dressed in army fatigues firing mercilessly at people scrambling to flee, and calmly reloading when he runs out of bullets.

At about the same time, there was a second shooting at mosque in Linwood, where seven more were killed.

In the aftermath of the bloody attacks, three men and one woman were arrested, with police charging ‘one man in his late 20s’ with murder. He will face court on Saturday.

Two others remain in police custody, with the fourth person arrested deemed not to have been involved in the attacks.

Of the 49 fatalities, 41 were killed at the Al Noor Mosque and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. Three of the seven were slain on the streets. A 49th died in hospital.

A further 48 people were rushed to Christchurch Hospital with gunshot wounds, 20 of which were in a critical condition. A dozen operating theatres were used, with many victims requiring multiple life-saving surgeries.

New Zealand Police later evacuated families from a street in Dunedin as they investigated a home ‘of interest’ to the shootings. The address is believed to be the home the gunman’s car is registered to.

The killer or killers then moved on to the Linwood mosque and killed a further eight people.

Hassan, 29, a Sri Lankan Muslim who has lived in New Zealand for six months, said he came to the country for its “peace, and because there are no wars”. He did not wish to give his last name.

He was at the Linwood mosque’s Friday prayers when the shooting began, and hit the floor as women around him rose up and screamed at the gunmen “Do not come here,” some of them charging towards the gunman.

 “The shooter was screaming a lot and waving the gun in every direction, shooting, shooting, shooting,” he said. “I don’t know who of my friends is dead or alive now. I am waiting. Police told me: ‘I am sorry, this is the first time this has ever happened in this country’.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday’s terror attack was ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’. Ms Ardern said there were no further suspects at this stage. “My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders, are with those who have been affected, and also with their families.”

Many of those families were seen crowding around the doors of Christchurch Hospital on Friday evening, unsure whether their loved ones would survive.

Ms Ardern said the shootings were ‘an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. “The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home. They should be safe here. The person who has perpetuated this violent act against them, they have no place in New Zealand society.”

She confirmed that police believe the attacks were ‘meticulously’ planned out. Ms Ardern flew to Wellington from Christchurch to hold a crisis meeting at parliament.

The nation’s terror threat level was elevated to ‘high alert’ following the terror attacks, the second highest possible.

  

RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS

 New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed the death toll had risen to 49 as of 9pm local time. “This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected. We don’t know the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown,” he said in a statement.

Speaking of the victims, Bush said: “Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones.”

He also praised local police officers who responded to the attacks. “We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today.”

Armed police were seen patrolling the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Auckland after the attack in Christchurch.

Bush earlier urged Muslims in New Zealand not to go to mosques on Friday.

Commissioner Bush said four people were in custody. He also confirmed multiple bombs attached to vehicles near the scene of the shootings were disarmed.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was ‘horrified’ by the ‘callous, right wing extremist attack’. “The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins,” he said.

He and Ms Ardern will discuss the repercussions of the attack later on Friday evening.

 

SICKENING ATTACK SHARED ONLINE

 

The suspected gunman shared a 73-page manifesto to Twitter before the killings, foreshadowing a ‘terrorist attack’. He entered the Al Noor Mosque on Friday during afternoon prayers and opened fire.

The distressing video streamed to his Facebook profile shows the 28-year-old man firing more than 100 shots at those inside.

His guns were scrawled with the names of past mass killers and cities where the shootings occurred. The gunman’s rampage began when he got into his car wearing military-style body armour and a helmet saying ‘let’s get this party started’.

He then drove to the mosque listening to folk music and military tunes before parking in an alley around the corner.

After retrieving one of at least six guns stored in his car, he walked up to the front door and began firing indiscriminately at worshippers inside.

The gunman stormed inside and fired quick bursts at anyone he saw. One wounded man tried to crawl away but was shot again after he calmly reloaded.

He fired into crowds of huddled worshippers, sometimes not even looking where he was shooting, reloading numerous times. When then sound of his gun stopped between magazines, the moaning of wounded people could be heard until the shots began again. Several times he stood over wounded men, calmly reloaded his gun, then shot them multiple times to make sure they were dead.

Tarrant then walked outside and appeared to fire on at least two targets, then returned to his car and swapped his shotgun for a scoped rifle.

Returning to the mosque he walked over to a pile of dead or wounded men in the room and began shooting them in the head to ensure they were dead.

Once he was satisfied everyone was dead, he ran outside and shot another person he saw on the mosque’s front lawn.

The woman stumbled on to the street and was lying face down in the gutter yelling ‘help me, help me’ as the shooter walked up to her. Tarrant calmly leaned over her and shot her twice in the head.

Seconds later he returned to his car and drove over her body to make his escape, stopping to shoot at least one other person through his car window.

As he drove he expressed regret for not staying longer and ‘burning the mosque to the ground’. Two jerry cans of petrol were earlier seen in the back of his car.

Footage from within the Masjid mosque later showed survivors tending to the wounded.

 

THE SHOOTER’S MANIFESTO

 In a manifesto seemingly written by Tarrant and shared to Twitter, he mentions being inspired by other shooters including Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Oslo, Norway in 2011.

He said he ‘disliked’ Muslims and hated those who had converted to the religion, calling them ‘blood traitors’.

Tarrant said he originally wanted to target a mosque in Dunedin, south of Christchurch, after watching a video on Facebook. “But after visiting the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood and seeing the desecration of the church that had been converted to a mosque in Ashburton, my plans changed,” he wrote. “The Christchurch and Linwood mosques had far more invaders.”

He said he had been planning an attack for up to two years and decided on Christchurch three months ago.

The shooter said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the death of Swedish schoolgirl Ebba Akerlund, a girl who was killed in a terrorist attack in Stockholm in April 2017.

Tarrant said he was a supporter of Donald Trump as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’.

He described himself as ‘just a regular white man’. He said he was born to ‘working class, low-income family... who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people’.

“My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues,” he wrote. The gunman said he carried out the massacre to ‘directly reduce immigration rates to European lands’.

He said New Zealand was not his ‘original choice’ for the attack but said the location would show ‘that nowhere in the world was safe’. “We must ensure the existence of our people, and a future for white children,” he wrote.

He wrote that the shooting was an ‘act of revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history’.

“For the enslavement of millions of Europeans taken from their lands by the Islamic slavers... for the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands,” the gunman wrote.

He shared photos to his now-removed Twitter account ahead of the attacks, showing weapons and military-style equipment. In posts online before the attack Tarrant wrote about ‘taking the fight to the invaders myself’.

 

THE UPBRINGING OF A SHOOTER

 Brenton Tarrant, 28, grew up in Grafton, a small town in northern New South Wales, Australia. Tarrant’s father, who was a competitive athlete and completed 75 triathlons, died of cancer in 2010 aged just 49. His mother still lives in the area.

Tarrant attended a local high school and then worked as a personal trainer at the local Big River Squash and Fitness Centre from 2010.

A woman who knew Tarrant through the gym said he had always followed a strict dietary and exercise regime. “He was very dedicated to his own training and to training others,” she said. “He threw himself into his own personal training and then qualified as a trainer and trained others. He was very good. When I say he was dedicated, he was dedicated more than most people would be. He was in the gym for long periods of time, lifting heaving weights. He pretty much transformed his body.”

The woman said she had not spoken to him or heard him talk about his political or religious beliefs. “From the conversations we had about life he didn’t strike me as someone who had any interest in that or extremist views,” she said. “But I know he’s been travelling since he left Grafton. He has been travelling overseas, anywhere and everywhere. I would say it’s something in the nature of his travels, something he’s been around.”

 

‘THERE WERE BODIES ALL OVER ME’

 Mohammed Jama, the former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said a man with a gun entered the Christchurch Mosque about 1.40pm local time on Friday.

A man inside the mosque at the time of the shooting said there ‘bodies all over me’.

Witnesses inside the mosque reported seeing 15 people being shot, including children.

A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath. “My wife is dead,” he said while wailing.

Witness Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described one of the shooters as being white, with blond hair and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest. “The guy was wearing like an army [suit]. He had a big gun and lots of bullets. He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” Ahmad Al-Mahmoud said.

“They had to smash the door - the glass from the window and the door - to get everyone out. We were trying to get everyone to run away from this area. I ran away from the car park, jumping through the back [yard] of houses.”

Al-Mahmoud said the man was ‘wearing a helmet’ and must have fired ‘hundreds’ of gunshots.

Another witness said he ran behind the mosque to call the police after hearing the gun go off. “I heard the sound of the gun. And the second one I heard, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque, rang the police. I saw one gun on the floor. Lots of people died and injured.”

Another survivor, identified only as Nour, told the New Zealand Herald that the gunman shot multiple worshippers outside before carrying out his rampage inside the mosque where he shot people indiscriminately.

 

HEROIC POLICE OFFICER INTERVENES

 A person suspected of being involved in the Christchurch mosque shooting was taken into custody in a dramatic roadside arrest.

Footage filmed by a passing motorist shows the suspect’s grey station wagon wedged between the gutter and another police car, with its front wheels in the air spinning.

The suspect appeared to still be inside, as officers approached the vehicle with their weapons drawn.

One officer reached inside the vehicle and dragged a person out, as a second stood guard with their weapon drawn.

The suspect was seen wearing dark clothing, and in the footage an officer appears to have hit the person.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there were ‘some absolute acts of bravery’ during the arrests of four people.

 

BD TEAM’s NARROW ESCAPE

 

Bangladesh players and support staff have been preparing for the third test of a series against New Zealand, set to begin on Saturday, and were walking through Hagley Park when shooting broke out at the Al Noor mosque.

Tweets from sports reporters and team members say the group ‘just escaped’ the shooting, which saw a man enter the mosque and fire multiple shots at dozens of people as they tried to flee.

The team’s opening batsman, Tamim Iqbal said on Twitter the ‘entire team got saved from active shooters’.

He said it was a ‘frightening experience’ and asked supporters to keep the team in their prayers.

Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim said Allah had saved the team. “We r [sic] extremely lucky,” he wrote. “Never want to see these things [sic] happen again... pray for us.”

ESPN cricinfo correspondent Mohammad Isam told the New Zealand Herald the team were ‘not in a mental state to play cricket at all,’ following the horrific attack.

Twenty armed police officers cleared areas in the suburb of Linwood, and led about five men with their hands on their heads out of a building in the area.

The shooting happened near Cathedral Square where thousands of children were protesting for climate change action. The protesting children were told to go home to ensure their safety.

New Zealand Police said armed officers were deployed to Hagley Park and at Christchurch Hospital.

Christchurch Boys’ and Girls’ high schools were both been placed into lockdown. The restrictions were lifted hours later.

Parents of students at Christchurch Girls’ High School were sent a text message telling them the lockdown was ‘not an exercise’.

One percent of New Zealand’s population of five million are Muslim, according to government statistics.