Many people were killed in a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, Friday, when at least one gunman opened fire on worshippers, police said.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.
Police said they had one person in custody but "there could be others involved" in the mosque shootings, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference.
She said that 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.”
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. “Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at the mosque when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch about 1:45 p.m. 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 Peneha’s 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.
The New Zealand Herald reported there was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque.
Mark Nichols told the 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.
New Zealand historically has had only a handful of mass shootings events.
The Reuters news agency contributed to this report.