Man charged identified as Australian right-wing terrorist; Four people taken into custody, multiple explosives found and defused; 4 Pakistanis injured, 5 missing
A “right-wing extremist” armed with semi-automatic weapons rampaged through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers on Friday, killing 49 worshippers and wounding dozens more.
The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she guided a shocked nation on one of its “darkest days”.
The Foreign Office in Islamabad said four Pakistanis were injured in the attack, and another five Pakistanis are “missing”.
FO spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said all four injured Pakistanis received bullet injuries, but their condition wasn’t immediately known.
The Pakistan High Commission in New Zealand is making efforts to locate the missing nationals, the FO spokesperson said.
The attacker live-streamed footage of him going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away. He allegedly published a racist “manifesto” on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.
A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been arrested and charged with murder. He is set to appear at the Christchurch District Court early Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.
Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner in New Zealand, Syed Moazzam Shah, said the New Zealand government has so far not revealed the names or nationalities of the victims.
However, “we have identified five Pakistanis whose families and friends have been unable to contact them.” He said it could not be said at this point if these five people were among the dead or the injured.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Ardern. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.” Two IEDs were found in a car and neutralised by the military, police said.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.
His two targets were the Al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.
The dead were said to include women and children. Around 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor.
The survivors included 17 members of Bangladesh’s cricket team, whose game against New Zealand on Saturday has been postponed, and a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.