By Christianna Silva
At least 49 people were shot and killed and dozens more were seriously injured in mass shootings at two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15, according to police, in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called “one of New Zealand's darkest days.”
The attacks targeted two mosques about three miles apart during Friday Prayer, or Jumu'ah, in which Muslims gather together around noon each Friday to pray together. As the New York Times reports, police have taken three men and one woman into custody in relation to the attack; one of the men has already been charged with murder. Police say they also found two additional explosive devices attached to a nearby vehicle but stopped them before they could do any damage, according to The Guardian.
Details about the victims are still emerging; according to BuzzFeed News, Prime Minister Arden said that many of the victims were migrants, refugees, and children.
“They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home,” Arden said. “They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence.”
She also called the attack “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” There have been very few terrorist attacks in New Zealand and crime is less prevalent in the country than in most major cities in the U.S., according to government data.
According to CNN, two of the people were arrested for being in possession of firearms; police are still working to understand the involvement of those who were not the gunman, according to New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. While police said they believe all suspects have been apprehended, the investigation is still ongoing.
As BuzzFeed notes, police believe one of the attackers posted a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum for extremist right-wing conversations. The gunman also live-streamed the attack and posted it onto social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all removed the social media accounts belonging to the suspected gunman and said they are working to remove all versions of the video from their platforms.
According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, one of the suspects is an Australian citizen; he condemned the attack as the work of an “extremist right-wing, violent terrorist” after Australian senator Anning Fraser falsely blamed the attack on immigration.
In response to the shooting, President Donald Trump tweeted out his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand but did not call the attack an act of terrorism or comment on the manifesto, which praised the President and called him a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Our hearts are with the Muslim community and all of those affected by today’s tragedy in New Zealand. We stand against faith-based violence. You can counter hate at muslimadvocates.org