Bomb Squad Responds to ‘Suspicious Package’ as New Zealand’s Dunedin Airport Locked Down

March 17, 2019 Updated: March 17, 2019

The airport in Dunedin, New Zealand, has been placed in lockdowaccording to law enforcement officials.

In a statement at 9.55 p.m. local time on March 17, New Zealand police confirmed the airport was closed following a report of a suspicious package on the airfield.

“Dunedin Airport is currently closed” a police statement said, according to an AFP report. “Police are at the scene and specialist teams have been deployed to determine the nature of the package.”

An unnamed source from within the airport told the Otago Daily Times the suspicious package was an abandoned bag in a building outside the main terminal of the airport. The source said the bomb squad had been called in.

air new zealand flight
FILE—A Plane taking off from an airport in New Zealand on Sept 20, 2017. (Nigel Marple/Reuters/File Photo)

An Air New Zealand staff member working at the air hub told AFP the terminal building had not been evacuated.

Two flights have been turned back from the airport, according to a Radio New Zealand report. One of the diverted flights was an Air New Zealand flight from Wellington, which was scheduled to land at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The New Zealand Transport Agency was cited by NewsHub as saying that State Highway 86 has been closed at the intersection of Centre Road in response to the threat.

New Zealand’s Worst Ever Peacetime Mass Shooting

The potential bomb scare comes after New Zealand was rocked by attacks targeting two mosques in the city of Christchurch, leaving 50 dead.

The death toll was revised upward from the earlier 49 after investigators found another victim while removing bodies from the crime scenes, the country’s police commissioner said on March 17.

The suspect in the shootings, 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in court Saturday amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb. He showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge and said more would likely follow.

Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is lead into the dock for his appearance
Brenton Tarrant, charged with murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is led into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald/Pool via Reuters)

Tarrant posted a jumbled 74-page manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter.

Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press he saw the gunman enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said after the gunman drove away, he went into the mosque to try and help.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievably nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

‘Hero’ Tackled Gunman

A survivor of the shooting at one of the mosques targeted in the attacks described how his friend risked his life to tackle the gunman and wrestle away his weapon.

Syed Mazharuddin told the New Zealand Herald he witnessed the attack.

“There was screaming around and I tried to take cover,” he said.

Mazharuddin told the Herald that he had barely managed to take cover when the gunman made his way through the main entrance door of the Linwood mosque.

The mosque in the neighborhood of Linwood was the second location targeted by the gunman in Friday’s mass shooting spree.

Emergency services personnel push a person into a hospital, after reports that several shots had been fired, in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (TVNZ via Reuters TV)

‘He Just Started Shooting at Them’

Mazharuddin said as soon as the gunman entered the mosque, he started firing wildly. “Just around the entrance door there were elderly people sitting there praying and he just started shooting at them.”

He said at one point one of his acquaintances tried to tackle the shooter, who was dressed in body armor.

“The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque … he saw an opportunity and pounced on [the gunman] and took his gun,” Mazharuddin said.

“The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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