New Zealand's prime minister, Ardern, classifies the attack on two mosques with at least 49 deaths in New Zealand as an act of terrorism. Four people were arrested. One of the suspects is Australian.
At least 49 people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, police said. This was confirmed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. In addition, 20 Muslim Muslims were wounded by shots in the two houses of worship. Ardern spoke of a "terrorist attack". It was one of the blackest days in New Zealand.
The police arrested four suspects, three men and one woman. One of them has been charged with murder. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that one of the suspects is Australian. He spoke of an "extreme right-wing violent terrorist".
300 people during Friday prayer
According to eyewitness reports, the attack started around 1.45 pm (1.45 am CET). An armed man entered the Masjid al-Noor mosque, where more than 300 people gathered for Friday afternoon prayers and fired a rapid fire weapon. According to witnesses, the perpetrator is a white man with a helmet and a bulletproof vest. Shots were later fired at a small mosque on the outskirts of Linwood. According to police spokesman Mike Bush, explosive devices were discovered in two cars.
Concerned about further attacks, the police have dropped off schools and other public buildings for hours. She appealed to the population – especially Muslims – to stay home: "Under no circumstances should anyone in the country go to a mosque."
50,000 Muslims live in New Zealand
In New Zealand, only a small minority of the Muslim population is Muslim. In total there are around 50,000 Muslims, many of whom are immigrants from countries such as Pakistan or Bangladesh. The majority in New Zealand is Christian. The city of Christchurch has 350,000 inhabitants and is located on the southern island of the Pacific Ocean. Mayor Lianne Dalziel said, "Everyone is shocked, I never thought something like this could happen here."
EU leaders ensure solidarity
The EU leaders expressed their condolences and assured solidarity. "Our thoughts in Europe lie with the victims and their families," EU President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter. "The brutal attack will never change the tolerance and decency New Zealand is known for."
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "The European Union is mourning with you today and we will always take a stand against those who want to destroy our societies and way of life in a horrible way." The attack on innocent people can no longer resist the values and culture of peace and unity that the EU and New Zealand share.
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas condemned the attacks as a "brutal crime". "We are deeply shocked by the cruel crime in Christchurch," he wrote on Twitter, "in these difficult times we stand by our New Zealand friends." Maas expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the victims.