A gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, killing around 30 people, according to local media reports, in what the country’s prime minister called “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
Police said four people were in custody. The country’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, warned residents to stay indoors and police asked mosques to close.
“This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference.
Shortly before the shooting, someone appearing to be the gunman publicly posted links to a manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum. The 8chan post included a link to what appeared to be the gunman’s Facebook page, where he said he would soon broadcast live video of the attack.
The 17-minute video, which appeared to be recorded on a helmet camera, shows his drive to the mosque, followed by a harrowing nearly two minutes of his firing on the worshippers in the mosque before fleeing the building and running back to his car and swapping weapons. He then re-enters the mosque and again begins shooting, continuing to methodically move through the mosque.
After another few minutes, he leaves again, gets in his vehicle and drives away, talking to himself throughout.
“There wasn’t even time to aim; there was so many targets,” he says at one point.
The video and Twitter posts showed weapons covered in the names of past military generals and men who have recently carried out mass shootings.
In his manifesto, he identified himself as a 28-year-old man born in Australia. He listed his white nationalist heroes, described what he said motivated him to attack, and said he purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States around the Second Amendment.
While the details of the shooting remained unclear, one purported witness, Mohammad Isam, a Bangladeshi journalist, posted a video of members of Bangladesh’s national cricket team who he said escaped the attack.
Christchurch, with about 388,000 residents, is the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island, hugging the Pacific Ocean coast. There hasn’t been a mass shooting in New Zealand since 1990. That shooting led to tightened gun laws, including restrictions on “military style semi-automatic weapons.” It’s hardly a gunless country; one report has the number at 1.2 million registered firearms in a country of 4.6 million people.