video update

NZ police detain 4 people after massacre at 2 mosques

49 confirmed dead, gunman streamed video live

Armed Offenders Squad members push back members of the public following the shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. (Reuters photo)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police detained four people on Friday after mass shootings at two mosques that left 49 people dead in the city of Christchurch.

"Four are in custody. Three are men and one is a woman," New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters in Wellington, Reuters reported.

"There were a few reports of IEDs strapped to vehicles which we were able to secure," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices.

He said it was not possible to assume that the attack was isolated to Christchurch, saying: "At this point in time we should never make assumptions."

One of the suspects was later charged with murder.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Canberra that the lead gunman was a right-wing extremist with Australian citizenship, AFP reported.

Morrison said the shooting in Christchurch was carried out by "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist" who was an Australian-born citizen.

He declined to provide further details, saying the investigation was being led by New Zealand authorities.

New Zealand media initially reported that between nine and 27 people had been killed. (continues below)

(Reutes video)

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said later there were 40 confirmed dead in the attacks.

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," she said, saying it marked "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

"From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned," she said, adding that in addition to the dead another 20 people were seriously injured.

The toll was later revised. The police commissioner told reporters, "the total number of people who have died in this horrendous event is 49".

Police warned against sharing "distressing" video footage relating to the deadly shooting. A video   online showed a gunman filming himself firing at worshippers inside a mosque.

The attack was streamed live.

"Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online," New Zealand police said in a Twitter post.

"We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed."

AFP analysed a copy of a Facebook Live video that shows a clean-shaven, Caucasian man with short hair driving to a mosque, then shooting as he enters the building. (continues below)

This image taken from the alleged shooter’s video, which was filmed Friday, March 15, 2019, shows him as he drives and he looks over to three guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (Photo: AP)

The gunman continues to shoot at people inside the mosque, some of whom were trying to flee while others were huddled in corners of the building, according to the copy of the video that AFP found on YouTube.

AFP confirmed the video was genuine through a digital investigation that included matching screenshots of the mosque taken from the gunman's footage with multiple images available online showing the same areas.

This included the entrance of the mosque, which has a number of distinct features such as a fence, postbox and doorway.

Inside the mosque, the gunman's footage showed distinctively patterned green carpet that also matched images tagged on Google Maps as being at the same location.

Distinctive writing on the gunman's weapons seen in the footage also matched images posted on a Twitter account using the same name and cartoon profile picture as the Facebook Live video.

A lengthy manifesto posted on the same Twitter account detailed racial motivations for the attack.

The Facebook account that posted the video was no longer available shortly after the shooting. The Twitter account of the same name was quickly suspended. (continues below)

A body lies on the footpath outside a mosque where there was a mass shooting in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. (Photo: AP)

A video that was apparently livestreamed by the shooter shows the attack in horrifying detail. The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down, AP reported.

He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children's screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle.

The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground. After walking back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song "Fire'' by English rock band "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown'' can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, "I am the god of hellfire!'' and the gunman drives away. The video then cuts out.

Members of the touring Bangladesh cricket team were on their bus approaching the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting broke out there.

Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted "entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.''

Cricket New Zealand later announced the Third Test, due to start in Christchurch on Saturday, had been cancelled.

An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following the mass shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday.(Photo:Reuters)

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