- The gunman reportedly filmed as he opened fire at a New Zealand mosque
- New Zealand police "strongly" urged users to not share the footage
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 40 people have died in the attack
The gunman who opened fire inside a crowded mosque in New Zealand's Christchurch during afternoon prayers today, reportedly live streamed the entire incident, unverified footage of which has been circulating on social media. The footage suggests the shooter filmed as he opened fire on the people inside the Masjid al Noor mosque. New Zealand police in a tweet acknowledged the circulation of "extremely distressing" footage and "strongly" urged users to not share it. "We are working to have any footage removed," the police said in the tweet.
Authorities later reported an attack on another mosque as well.
An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand he heard shots fired and four people lying on the ground, with "blood everywhere", reported news agency AFP.
Another eyewitness said he heard shooting and saw his wife lying dead on the footpath as he was escaping, according to AFP. Children are also believed to be among the dead. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 49 people have died in the attack.
New Zealand has been on high alert, with Christchurch on lockdown with officials urging worshippers to not visit mosques "anywhere in New Zealand". The lockdown from schools was later lifted by the New Zealand police.
Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.- New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019
Police officials also urged mosques across the nation "to shut their doors", adding people should "refrain from visiting these premises until further notice."
Officials said they were on the hunt for the shooter. In another tweet, the New Zealand police said it was "doing all it can to resolve this incident." Four persons, three men and a woman, were taken into custody by the New Zealand police, according to AFP.
The Australian Prime Minister in a statement said the shooter was "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist" holding Australian citizenship.
The Bangladesh cricket team, which was in the country for a cricket tournament, was about to enter the mosque, when the shooting began. The team was informed of the shooting after which the players "got inside a bus and laid down on the floor after the warning," said a Bangladesh reporter, quoted by AFP. They escaped unhurt. A Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesperson said the team was "mentally shocked" by the shooting and were confined to a hotel.
Ms Ardern, in an early reaction to the mass shooting, said the country was going through one of its darkest days.
"Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence," Ms Ardern had told reporters.
Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand, which had reigned in its gun laws in 1992, two years after an incident in which a mentally disturbed man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana, according to AFP.
New Zealand gun laws restrict access to semi-automatic rifles. However, anybody over the age of 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised, according to AFP.
(With Inputs From AFP)