Witnesses described seeing bodies and “blood everywhere” following the attack at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch on Friday afternoon.
Police have charged an Australian citizen, Brenton Tarrant with murder,
Handcuffed and wearing a white prison suit, the 28-year-old smirked as he appeared Christchurch District Court but did not speak. His court-appointed lawyer made no application for bail or name suppression.
He was likely to face further charges, police said. Another three people were arrested in connection with the attack. One was later released, but two remain detained at the time of publication.
Tarrant ppeared to have live-streamed the attack and outlined his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto posted online.
A search of a property in Dunedin, around 200 miles to the south, was carried out by police.
Videos and documents posted online appear to suggest that the shooter live-streamed his attack on Facebook and prepared an anti-immigrant “manifesto” prior to the shooting.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand's gun laws would be changed as a result of the attack. She later visited refugees in the city.
Follow the latest developments in our live blog below.
Please allow a moment for the live blog to load.
Welcome to The Independent's live blog of the developing situation in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a gunman has opened fire on a mosque causing "many" fatalities. Here's what we know so far:
- The shooting began at Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at 1.45pm
- Witnesses described seeing a white gunman, dressed in black
- There are "many" deaths, though police have yet to describe scale of attack
- Second shooting reports at another mosque in Christchurch suburbs
Police are warning anyone in the whole of New Zealand who might have been thinking of going to mosque today to "stay put and close their doors".
Officers have confirmed there are multiple fatalities and one person was in custody, but no further details were immediately available.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
Speaking at a news conference, she says that "what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence."
She says while many people affected may be migrants or refugees "they have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not."
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at the Al Noor mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
The team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
"They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting began," Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told the Reuters news agency.
"They are shaken but good."
One suspect is in custody but "there could be others involved," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a short while ago.
The New Zealand Herald is reporting that one suspect is believed to be an Australian who has identified himself on social media and written a manifesto declaring his intentions.
In it, he says the shooting "is a terrorist attack".
There are also reports and video clips being shared on social media that suggest a gunman live-streamed at least one shooting.
Facebook and Twitter have reportedly suspended accounts linked to the suspect.
An eyewitness has told CNN he was inside one mosque when the shooting began, and that he heard the gunman "continuously shooting for ten to 15 minutes".
Others, including the New Zealand Herald, are reporting that the attack on Al Noor mosque lasted as long as 20 minutes before the shooter fled.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.
Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.
"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque," he said. "It's unbelievable nutty. I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous."
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
"I've lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they're very friendly," he said. "I just don't understand it."
He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
At the scene of the second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque, witness Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.
Police have said they are investigating social media posts purporting to be from the gunman, including a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto.
The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he was 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organization, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.
He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.
He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of "mass immigration."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies