(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) — After 49 people were gunned down in terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, the prime minister is vowing to change gun laws.
At least one gunman carried out what is now the deadliest shooting in New Zealand history.
Forty-two others were injured, including two critically, in what became “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ardern said Saturday, “while the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers.”
She vowed that “while work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change.”
A gunman appeared to have livestreamed video of the shooting on social media, according to New Zealand police. He documented his trip from his car and into the worship center in central Christchurch, where he opened fire indiscriminately, police said.
Officials said they were working to remove “extremely distressing footage” taken at the scene and urged social media users not to share it.
Three people are in custody, including one Australian citizen. One 28-year-old man was charged with murder and is expected to appear in court Saturday, police said.
Five guns were used by the main suspect, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, the prime minister said at a news conference Saturday. The suspect had a gun license, she added.
Police have not said if the same gunman shot at both mosques.
“None of those apprehended had a criminal history either here or in Australia,” and none were on any watch lists, Ardern said.
Witnesses said the attack occurred just before 1:40 p.m. local time as the Sheikh gave a sermon in
“It’s something that we never expected to have happen here,” Christchurch MP Gerry Brownlee told “Good Morning America.” “We’re a relatively small population, and while we are ethnically quite diverse, we live very peaceable lives. And this, as many have seen, has shattered our innocence.”
Brownlee, who said he lives a short distance from one of the shooting sites, said, “Almost everyone will know someone or have a connection with the families of someone who has been either killed or seriously wounded today.”
Of the 49 people killed, New Zealand police said 41 victims died at the Deans Avenue Mosque, seven at the Linwood Avenue Mosque and one at a hospital.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel believes the city was targeted because “we are a safe city and a safe country.”
“He is not from here,” Dalziel said Saturday of the attacker. “He came here. He came here with hate in his heart and intention to kill in his mind. So he did not develop his hatred here. He came here to perform this act of terrorism.”
“His was the voice of hate, and the only way that communities can respond to the voice of hate is to come together and love, compassion and kindness,” she said.
Queen Elizabeth in a statement said she’s “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch.”
“Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured,” she said. “At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.”
Friday afternoon President Trump said he spoke with New Zealand’s prime minister about the “monstrous terrorist attacks.”
“These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing,” Trump said. “It’s a horrible, horrible thing. I told the prime minister the United States is with them all the way, 10 percent, whatever they need, we will be there.”
The president went on to call New Zealand a great friend and asserted that “our relationship has never been better.”
President Trump had also tweeted condolences Friday morning.
“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured,” he tweeted. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
Later in the day, he tweeted that he spoke to Ardern, reiterating that the U.S. is “ready to help.”
U.S. Attorney General William Barr in a statement called the attack “a sobering reminder that the threat of political and religious violence is real and that we must remain vigilant against it.”
“Violence on the basis of religion is evil,” Barr said. “The Justice Department joins in mourning with the people of New Zealand.”
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement, “While we are not aware of any current, credible or active threat domestically, nor of any current information regarding obvious ties between the perpetrators in New Zealand and anyone in the US — the Department is cognizant of the potential concerns members of Muslim-American communities may have as they gather at today’s congregational prayers.”
“Attacks on peaceful people in their place of worship are abhorrent and will not be tolerated,” Nielsen stressed. “The Department strongly stands with those of all faiths as they seek to worship in peace and we will continue to work with stakeholders to protect the ability of all to worship freely and without fear.”
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