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40 killed, more than 20 wounded in 2 New Zealand mosque shootings; 4 suspects in custody

Forty people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
In the first attack, a gunman opened fire on Friday prayers at at the Al Noor mosque, killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed.
One man who said he was at the mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
"He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and "there was blood everywhere".
Ardern condemned what she called "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. This is one of New Zealand's darkest days.
"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand," Ardern said. "They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who have perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand."
All mosques in New Zealand had been asked to shut their doors, police said. Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population, a 2013 census showed.
New Zealand's Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four people - three men and a woman - had been taken into custody but it was not clear if the gunman was among them or if other people were involved.
Bush also said IEDs, improvised explosive devices, were found with a vehicle they stopped.
One of the suspects is Australian, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday. "I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody I have been advised is an Australian-born citizen," he told reporters in Sydney.
"As family members with our New Zealand cousins today, we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist."
The online video footage, which appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to the gunman's head, showed red petrol canisters in the back of his car, along with weapons.
The online footage showed the gunman driving as music played in his vehicle. After parking, he took two guns and walked a short distance to the entrance of the mosque.
He then opened fire. Over the course of five minutes, he repeatedly shoots worshippers, leaving well over a dozen bodies in one room alone. He returned to the car during that period to change guns, and went back to the mosque to shoot anyone showing signs of life.
The video shows the gunman driving off at high speed and later firing at parked cars and a building. Police said the second mosque attacked was in the suburb of Linwood, but gave no details.
Another unconfirmed video taken by someone else appeared to show police apprehending the gunman by the side of a road.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters. The team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
"They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message. "They are shaken but good.”
The third cricket test was cancelled, New Zealand Cricket said later.
Violent crime is rare in New Zealand and police do not usually carry guns.
Before Friday, New Zealand's worst mass shooting was in 1990 when a gun-mad loner killed 11 men, women and children in a 24-hour rampage in the tiny seaside village of Aramoana. He was killed by police.


© Thomson Reuters 2019
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