Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says we still love this country

Flowers and a New Zealand national flag are seen at a memorial as tributes to victims of the mosque attacks near Linwood mosque in Christchurch March 16, 2019.

At least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers on what the prime minister called "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

Law enforcement sources have told CBS News that Australian-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, was charged with murder over the attacks on the two mosques. He is due back in court on April 5 and police said he was likely to face further charges.

Gun control experts told the Guardian such weapons can be easily converted into a military-style semi-automatic rifle using a high-capacity magazine, the sale of which is not regulated in New Zealand.

"I was running and there was a guy [who] said there was a shooting in the mosque so I was running, while I was running there was a lady being shot", he said, according to ABC News.

Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said.

"He was professional, he was punctual, reliable.as normal as one person to the next", she said.

One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman burst in as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"People started to pass by us with blood stains on their clothes, they were very scared and their voices were trembling, some people could not even speak", restaurant manager Prakash Sapkota, who was near the mosques, told Euronews.

"Both Martin and Lockie felt personally uncomfortable making the trip to Dunedin given the events in Christchurch, and also, the feelings and concerns of their partners and families", said Auckland Cricket High Performance Manager Simon Insley.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence", and that numerous victims could be migrants or refugees.

Police officers search the area near the Masjid Al Noor mosque site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand Saturday
New Zealand Attack: What We Know

"The offender was in possession of a gun licence", Ardern said.

The live-streamed massacre received a flurry of "likes" and positive comments from New Zealanders on the extremist website it was originally posted on.

Most of those killed were worshiping at Al Noor Mosque when the gunman entered, killing at least 41 people.

Five guns were used by the primary perpetrator, including two semi-automatic weapons, and two shotguns, she added.

Police said IEDs, improvised explosive devices, were found with a vehicle they stopped.

"It's been 36 hours, I haven't heard anything about them", he said.

Imran had dropped off his father, an electrical engineer, at the Al Noor mosque on Friday and was looking for a parking space when the shooting began.

Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not clear.

"Muslims have been living in New Zealand (for) over 100 years and nothing has ever happened to us like this, so this is not going to change the way we feel about New Zealand".

Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.

A website set up for victims had raised more than NZ$1 million ($684,000) in less than a day, and social media was flooded with messages of shock, sympathy and solidarity.

  • Joey Payne