The man reportedly wailed, “My wife is dead,” after at least one gunman killed 49 people during Friday prayers at two Christchurch mosques
A distraught husband escaped the New Zealand mosque shootings – only to find his wife lying dead on a footpath outside.
The man reportedly wailed, “My wife is dead,” after coming across his spouse’s body at the scene in Christchurch today.
He had been praying in the Masjid Al Noor mosque when a gunman entered and opened fire on terrified worshippers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 30 people were killed at the building, with one witness saying there were “bodies all over me”.
A second shooting unfolded at the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque, which saw 10 people slaughtered inside and outside.
And at least nine others also lost their lives in the massacres, according to the country’s police, who have put the death toll at 49.
The husband, who did not wish to be named, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was praying at Al Noor when he heard shots fired.
He escaped the attack, but discovered his wife’s dead body outside.
“My wife is dead,” he wailed to the newspaper.
The man, who was being supported by other Muslim men, bravely spoke out as four people have been taken into custody over the attacks.
Police have said one man in his late 20s has been charged with murder. He will appear in court in New Zealand on Saturday.
Authorities took three other people – two men and a woman – into custody in relation to the attacks and defused explosive devices.
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said one of those arrested was an Australian citizen, and described the suspected attacker as an “extremist right-wing violent terrorist”.
Earlier, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed the devastating death toll in the country’s worst ever mass shooting.
Mr Bush told a news conference: “The total number of people who have died in this horrendous event is 49 and our hearts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends, all of their loved ones.
“And I want to assure everyone that we do our best for them.”
He described the attack as a “very well-planned event”.
More than 20 others are said to be seriously injured after at least one gunman opened fire during Friday prayers at the two mosques.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ms Ardern said, calling it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
One of the suspected attackers – Brenton Tarrant – appeared to have live-streamed the attack on Facebook as he shot victims.
The 28-year-old Australian described his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto.
When asked about the attackers not being on intelligence agency watchlists, Ms Ardern said it was an indication they “had not acted in a way that warranted it”.
Asked about the ages of victims, she said: “I will have been amongst other members of the public who will have seen the footage as the injured were being brought to Christchurch A&E and you certainly can see from that footage there is a real range of ages there.
“I imagine that these would have represented particular brothers, fathers, sons.”
She added: “We have undoubtedly experienced an attack today that is unprecedented, unlike anything that we have experienced before.
“But, as I say, New Zealand has been chosen because we are not a place where violent extremism exists.
“We reject those notions and we must continue to reject them. This is not an enclave for that kind of behaviour, for that kind of ideology.
We will and must reject it. This is a place where people should feel secure and will feel secure.
“I am not going to let this change New Zealand’s profile, none of us should.”
Officers responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at about 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).
They urged people in the area to stay indoors, while all schools in the city were put into lockdown.
Witness Mohan Ibrahim said he was among 200 people in the Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue when he heard gunfire.
He told the New Zealand Herald: “At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running.”
Speaking earlier, he added: “I still have friends inside.”
“I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven’t heard from. I am scared for my friends’ lives.”
Others recalled desperately seeking cover as bullets flew through the air.
“The guy was wearing like an army [suit]. He had a big gun and lots of bullets,” one person told local media in New Zealand. “He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere.”
Witness Farhaan Farheez was praying at Linwood when the shooting started – but said some did not leave immediately.
He told Stuff.co.nz: “I didn’t know what a gun sounded like.
“It is customary when we are praying not to pay attention to the outside world … gunshots kept happening and people kept praying.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed Tani, a refugee from Somalia, said he was walking to the mosque when he heard gunshots break out.
“I was really frightened,” he said.
“I come from Somalia and the last time I heard the sound of gunfire was eight years ago.
“Then people were running towards me and shouting ‘go, go, go’.”
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, currently on tour in New Zealand, said they had nearly been caught up in the tragedy.
Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers”.
Mushfiqur Rahim said: “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque…we r extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again…. pray for us”.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the British High Commission in Wellington was in contact with the New Zealand authorities about the incident.
“British nationals in the area are advised to remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities,” he said.
“The British High Commission in Wellington is in contact with the New Zealand authorities and urgently seeking further information.”