The massacres at two New Zealand mosques have prompted messages of sorrow and disgust from around the world and warnings against fuelling hatred of Muslims.
New Zealand police said late on Friday that 49 people had been killed at two mosques and around 40 injured, while three men and a woman had been arrested.
One of the men, believed to be Australian Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with murder.
In a telegram of condolences on Friday, Pope Francis denounced the massacres and said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence at two mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks.”
US President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” at two mosques in New Zealand, a deadly attack that killed at least 49 people in what the White House called a “vicious act of hate.”
As governments in Asia and the Middle East scrambled to find out how many of their citizens had been caught up in the Christchurch bloodshed, there was anger that the attackers targeted worshippers during their Friday prayers on the Islamic day of rest.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 (where) 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan posted on social media.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of the demonising of Muslims.
“Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack,” he wrote on Twitter.
Bangladeshi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said it was “extremely lucky” the country’s cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, did not suffer casualties. The players arrived for Friday prayers as the shooting started.
“I can’t even imagine what would have happened if they were there five minutes earlier,” he said on social media.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian national arrested after the attack was an “extremist, right-wing violent terrorist”.
A city of about 400,000 people, Christchurch has a small Islamic community, including overseas students.
Queen Elizabeth II said in a statement: “I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.”
In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “I mourn with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques. We stand together against such acts of terrorism.”
The European Commission said: “This senseless act of brutality on innocent people in their place of worship could not be more opposite to the values and the culture of peace and unity that the European Union shares with New Zealand.”
Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, said Londoners stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch.
“When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are demonised because of their faith, when people’s fears are played on rather than addressed, the consequences are deadly as we have seen so sadly today,” he said.
Norwegian Prime Mininster Erna Solberg said the attack brought back memories of 2011 in her country when anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 people: “It shows that extremism is nurtured and that it lives in many places.”
Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s 1000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, called the attack “a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia, and the spread of Islamophobia.”