Police Hunt Active Shooter Who Opened Fire at a New Zealand Mosque

March 14, 2019 Updated: March 15, 2019

Authorities are searching for an armed man and any accomplices who ran off after randomly shooting people near a New Zealand mosque on March 15.

New Zealand Police confirmed it is hunting “an active shooter” who opened fire close to a downtown Christchurch city mosque, causing several casualties.

“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told Reuters. “Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation but the risk environment remains extremely high.”

One witness said a man dressed in camouflage military-style clothes suddenly began shooting people in the Masjid Al Noor mosque in the city’s Hagley Park district with what appeared to be an automatic rifle.

There are also unconfirmed reports of armed police at a second mosque in the Linwood neighbourhood.

The Bangladesh cricket team had planned to attend the mosque for prayers when the shooting occurred but changed their plans and all members are safe, according to the team coach.

“All members of the Bangladesh Cricket Team in Christchurch, New Zealand are safely back in the hotel following the incident of shooting in the city,” the team said in a Twitter post. “The Bangladesh Cricket Board is in constant contact with the players and team management.”

The team is in Christchurch to compete against New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on March 16.

“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a written statement.

Police confirmed all of the city’s schools and council buildings had been placed into lock down, and urged everyone in the downtown area to stay indoors.

Police confirmed one person is in custody and there may be other offenders. They also said there have been a number of fatalities as a result of the shooting.

A witness told broadcaster 1 News he saw three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the mosque. Police would not comment on whether more shots were fired inside of the mosque.

Radio New Zealand interviewed a witness inside of the mosque, saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern described the attack as one of nation’s “darkest days.”

“It is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” the PM said in a written statement to Radio New Zealand. “Migrants and refugees have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. For the person who perpetuated this violence it is not.”

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings,” Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch said. “There is never a justification for that sort of hatred.”

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed.

UPDATE: Police have confirmed that they have one suspect in custody.

“One person is in custody, however Police believe there may be other offenders.

“We urge New Zealanders to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.”

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