At Least 49 Slain in Coordinated Attacks on New Zealand Mosques

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, as gunmen opened fire on worshippers at Friday prayers.

At least several dozen more were wounded in the domestic terror attack that was livestreamed on Facebook for 17 minutes by one of the gunmen wearing a body camera.

“Our hearts are broken over today’s terrible tragedy in New Zealand. Please know we are working vigilantly to remove any violent footage,” tweeted YouTube.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters that it was “not a matter of someone having slipped under the radar” as none of the three suspects under arrest were on any watch lists.

One apparent gunman joined Twitter in February but posted all 63 of his tweets on March 12, except for his last tweet — multiple links to a manifesto — today. Two days ago, he posted multiple pictures of threats written on guns and magazines including “Here’s your migration compact!” and “14,” likely referring to the white supremacist “14 words” slogan. The name of 2017 Quebec City mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette was also written on a gun. Tweets in his stream included criticism of migration and of white women not reproducing enough.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said multiple improvised explosive devices attached to vehicles in Christchurch had been defused by bomb squads.

New Zealand officials didn’t elaborate on the suspects or their roles in the attacks, other than to say that one of the suspects identified as Australian. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of his citizens was among those who had “stolen the lives in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders.”

Morrison condemned the attack by an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”

“It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said. The country’s National Security Threat Level, which had been low, was hiked up to high. Much of the city was locked down in the aftermath of the shootings. Mosques were advised to shut their doors until further notice.

“We’re heartbroken over the events in Christchurch today,” tweeted U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown. “We stand with our Kiwi friends and neighbors and our prayers are with you. Kia kaha.”