As the world comes to grip with the worst massacre in the history of New Zealand in living memory, the number of people killed in the attacks against two mosques has risen to 49 with scores of other wounded.
The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest day.”
New Zealand is famous for being a peaceful and quiet country but the incident has shaken the citizens who are yet to come to terms with the atrocities perpetrated by a white supremacist.
The attackers struck during Friday prayers when the mosques were full of worshippers.
Eye witnesses saw a man dressed in black enter a mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m., then heard dozens of shots. As people fled the mosque, witnesses reported seeing “dead people everywhere.”
Three men and a woman have been arrested. So far, one of the suspects has been charged with murder.
This peaceful island nation of five million people was shocked as the massacre was covered on national TV. “This is New Zealand – we don’t expect something like this to happen. The attacks, the terror,” one reporter said.
Scores of victims were rushed to nearby hospitals. “I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping,” an eyewitness said.
One woman said she even saw the shooting unfold. “I heard what I thought was fireworks and I saw a bunch of fellas running down the street. Then all of a sudden it got violent,” she said.
Authorities said none of the suspects had been on any watch list. A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian.
One of the attacks was reportedly live streamed on the discussion site 8chan, which also carried the gunman’s “manifesto” denouncing immigration.
The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the values of her country would not be “shaken” by the deadly mosque attacks.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Ardern said.