At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, in a carefully planned and unprecedented attack that has shocked the usually peaceful nation.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called the incident a terrorist attack in a Friday press conference, saying the suspects held “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or the world.
The attacks targeted two mosques in central Christchurch at lunchtime local time Friday.
A total of 48 people, including young children with gunshot wounds, were admitted to Christchurch hospital for treatment.
Three men and one woman were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
One man in his late 20s was charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning local time.
Of the other three people apprehended, two were arrested in possession of firearms and police are still trying to understand their involvement, said New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. On Friday night local time police tweeted that the pair remain in custody.
Police said a fourth person was arrested Friday but “that was not related to these events.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that at least one of those arrested is Australian. He said the shooting was the work of an “extremist right-wing, violent terrorist.”
Police said they do not believe there are any other suspects but added that it was still an open investigation.
None of the four people arrested had been on any security watch lists prior to the attack.
Attack apparently broadcast live on social media.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said videos that appeared to show the Christchurch shootings were quickly taken down.
“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the live stream commenced and we removed both the shooter’s Facebook account and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” she said.
A spokesperson for Google and YouTube issued a statement calling the shooting a “terrible tragedy.”
“Shocking, violent and graphic content has no place on our platforms and is removed as soon as we become aware of it,” read the statement. “As with any major tragedy, we will work cooperatively with the authorities.”
Twitter has removed an account it believes is linked to the suspect in the shooting and is working to keep the video of the incident off its platform, a spokesperson said.
“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Christchurch today,” Twitter said in a statement.
“Twitter has rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this. We also cooperate with law enforcement to facilitate their investigations as required.”