New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has called Friday one of her country’s “darkest days” as the world reacts to a shooting spree at two Christchurch mosques, killing and injuring worshippers.
Political leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand rugby player Sonny Bill Williams have posted on social media their anguish after news a shooter armed with an automatic weapon walked into the Masjid al Noor mosque about 1.40pm local time on Friday and opened fire on hundreds of people.
Dozens of people are believed dead, while New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four suspects – three men and one woman – are in custody.
The shooter, described by witnesses as white-skinned with blond hair and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, entered the mosque near the centrally located Hagley Park about 10 minutes after up to 500 people began praying, on their knees.
When asked if she would describe the attack as a hate crime, Ms Adern said she would describe it as an “unprecedented act of violence” that had “no place in New Zealand”.
Ms Adern said the act occurred in a place where people should have been expressing their religious freedom in a safe environment.
She said many of those directly affected by the shooting may be migrants to New Zealand.
“They may have been refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home,” Ms Adern said.
“They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us is not.”
Later during the press conference, Ms Adern again said the perpetrators had “no place in New Zealand society” before wrapping up questions and saying she was “keen” to get to Wellington to meet with government agencies upon landing.
Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said she was “very shocked” to hear the tragic news of the mass shooting.
“My heart goes out to all bereaved families & the Muslim community. This is a heinous hate crime. RIP,” she said on Twitter.
Across the Tasman Sea, Prime Minister Scott Morrison explained his horror and sent his thoughts and prayers to Australia’s “Kiwi cousins”.
I'm horrified by the reports I’m following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also posted to Twitter on Friday afternoon to show his sorrow and solidarity with New Zealanders.
Australia and New Zealand are family and we grieve with our brothers and sisters today. We send our love and condolences, our sorrow and solidarity in this terrible time of fear and pain and grief.
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) March 15, 2019
New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, recorded his reaction to the news, holding back tears and sniffling from his car.
“I can’t put into words how I’m feeling right now,” Williams said.
“I’m deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand.”
— Ashraf Garda (@AshrafGarda) March 15, 2019
The United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Scott Brown said he was “heartbroken”.
We’re heartbroken over the events in Christchurch today. We stand with our Kiwi friends and neighbors and our prayers are with you. Kia kaha.
— Ambassador Brown 🇺🇸 (@USAmbNZ) March 15, 2019
Watch New Zealand Prime Minister’s press conference below: