A gunman shot and killed at least 49 people and injured dozens of others worshipping at the Al Noor mosque and Lindwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. One man was arrested and charged with murder while two other armed suspects remain in custody, reports the Associated Press.
Authorities have not officially named the suspect but the gunman live-streaming the shooting identified himself as Brenton Tarrant.
Len Peneha, who lives next door to the Al Noor mosque, witnessed the shooting at the central Christchurch mosque. He told the AP he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and heard dozens of shots.
Pena said he entered the mosque and attempted to help once the gunman ran out and dropped what appeared to be a semiautomatic weapon in his driveway.
"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the
He said he helped about five people seek shelter in his home, one who was slightly injured.
Eight people were reportedly killed in the second shooting at the Linwood mosque about three miles away.
Witness Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or a shotgun, reports USA Today.
A survivor of the shooting at the Linwood mosque praised a hero who tackled the gunman. Syed Mazharuddin told the New Zealand Herald, "The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque… He saw an opportunity and pounced on [the gunman] and took his gun. The hero tried to chase and he couldn't find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled."
The gunman reportedly used a body camera to live-stream 17 minutes of the horrifying attack. A self-proclaimed ethno-nationalist and fascist, he incorporated numerous racist and xenophobic themes into the shooting.
He was seen using rifles covered in white-supremacist graffiti and listened to a song glorifying a Bosnia Serb war criminal. According the AP, at least two of the rifles used in the shooting reference Ebba Akerlund, an 11-year-old girl killed in an April 2017 truck-ramming attack in Stockholm. He also used a weapon with the name Charles
An account believed to belong to the suspect posted a link to an 74-page manifesto where he praised Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," reports Aljazeera.
Trump offered his condolences to the people of New Zealand on social media. He has not addressed claims made within the manifesto.
The manifesto explained Tarrant's reasoning for the shooting. "I chose firearms for the effect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the effect it could have on the politics of United States and thereby the political situation of the world," he said.
Tarrant revealed he was most radicalized by conservative commentator Candace Owens, reports the New York Post. "Yes, the person that has influenced me above all was Candace Owens," he wrote.
"Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness,” he continued. “Though I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for me are too much, even for my tastes.”
Owens took to social media laughing off reports that her rhetoric inspired the mass shooting. "LOL! FACT: I’ve never created any content espousing my views on the 2nd Amendment or Islam. The Left pretending I inspired a mosque massacre in...New Zealand because I believe black America can do it without government hand outs is the reachiest reach of all reaches!! LOL!"
New Zealand Prime Minister said the country was targeted because of its dedication to multicultural values. “We were chosen (because) we represent diversity, kindness compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”