United Kingdom: At least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in an attack broadcast in horrifying, live video by an immigrant-hating white supremacist wielding at least two assault rifles and a shotgun.
One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.
She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
The cold-blooded attack shocked people across the nation of 5 million people, a country that has relatively loose gun laws but few gun homicides and is so peaceful police officers rarely carry firearms. New Zealand is also generally considered to be welcoming to migrants and refugees.
The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
Using what may have been a helmet camera, he livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his rampage at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque, where at least 41 people were killed as he sprayed them with bullets over and over, sometimes firing at victims he had already cut down. Several more worshippers were killed in an attack on a second mosque in the city a short time later.
According to the AP, Ardern said Tarrant had legally acquired five of the guns used in the attack. New Zealand’s gun laws permit private firearm ownership, but carve out a special, more restricted class of “military style semi-automatic” weapons.
She vowed the country’s gun laws would change in the wake of Friday’s act of terrorism.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, lamented that “these sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing” and said he had told Ardern the United States was with her country. He disputed, however, that white nationalism was a rising threat worldwide.
“I think it is a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” he said. “I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that is the case. I don’t know enough about it yet, they are just learning about the person and the people involved. But it is certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.”
World leaders condemned the attacks and offered condolences. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Islamic leaders pointed to the bloodshed and other such attacks as evidence of rising hostility toward Muslims.
New Zealand’s prime minister said that immigrants and refugees “have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.” As for the suspects, Ardern said, they harbor “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black and wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top enter the Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror.
Following the terrorist attacks, Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT) released a press statement calling on Muslims in the UK and the rest of the West to stay highly vigilant.
Vigils for the victims of shootings at two mosques in New Zealand have taken place in the UK, amid an outpouring of support for Britain’s Muslim community.
The Queen said she was “deeply saddened” by the shootings, and PM Theresa May called it “sickening”.
It comes as police have increased patrols at British mosques to provide reassurance.
Senior counter-terrorism experts and members of the security services were also due to hold talks with the home secretary on how mosques in the UK can be best protected.
The Queen paid tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who helped the injured, and said: “Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.
She added that her “thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders” at this “tragic time”.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in a joint message with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, called the attack “senseless”, saying: “No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship.”
They ended the message with the Maori words Kia Kaha, meaning “stay strong”.
Mrs May also condemned the “horrifying terrorist attack”, saying: “My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence.”
She said the UK stood “shoulder to shoulder” with New Zealand.
“There can be no place in our societies for the vile ideology that drives and incites hatred and fear,” the prime minister added.
Flags have been lowered to half mast at Downing Street and the Foreign Office, as well as in the British town of Christchurch in Dorset, which is twinned with its New Zealand namesake.
Mohammed Kozbar, the vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said Muslims in the UK would not be intimidated by terror attacks.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, shared a post on Twitter urging Christians to go along to Friday prayers at local mosques.
And the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, told the BBC that “an attack against faith anywhere is an attack on faith everywhere”.
There was sadness and solidarity, but also anger, at a vigil at the East London Mosque, held in memory of the victims of the New Zealand attack.
Posters saying “no to Islamophobia” and “this will not divide us” were held up as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and faith leaders gave short speeches. But among many of the gatherers the BBC spoke to there was also anger and fear.
Fear about whether such an attack could happen in the UK. And anger at what they see as the normalisation of Islamophobia in parts of the media and among politicians.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, laid flowers at the High Commission of New Zealand in London, where members of an anti-terrorism group had gathered.
MPs have observed a minute’s silence in the House of Commons.
British security minister Ben Wallace called the attack “repugnant” and said the UK “stands shoulder to shoulder with New Zealand against terrorism”.
He said he and Home Secretary Sajid Javid would speak to counter-terrorism police chiefs and the security services on Friday, “to discuss what further measures we can take to protect our mosques and our communities from any threats here in the United Kingdom”.
Mr Wallace added: “Our police and security services treat all threats the same and all terrorists the same no matter what communities, religion or background they come from. A terrorist is a terrorist and we shall deal with them exactly the same.”