Forty people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a terrorist attack.
The massacre by at least one gunman during Friday prayers in the city of Christchurch is the country’s worst ever mass shooting and was condemned throughout Asia.
“We believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence,” Ardern said.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”
Ardern said New Zealand had been placed on its highest security threat level. She said four people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.
All mosques in New Zealand had been asked to shut their doors, police said.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Political and Islamic leaders across Asia expressed their disgust at the deadly shooting.
“Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.