New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern made a statement following a coordinated attack on two mosques in the area of Christchurch, Canterbury.
The attacks, which began unfolding Friday afternoon at 1:40 p.m. local time, left multiple people dead at two locations, though police only have one person in custody.
“Whilst I cannot give any confirmation at this stage around fatalities and casualties, what I can say is that it is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” the prime minister stated.
Ardern described the attack as “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
She said that those at the mosque had the right to exercise their religious freedom. She continued that while they may be migrants to New Zealand, perhaps even refugees, they had chosen to make New Zealand their home.
“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not,” she said. “They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”
She added that her thoughts were with the people of New Zealand and all those who have been affected by the tragedy.
“My thoughts also to those in Christchurch, who are still dealing with an unfolding situation. The advice from police continues to be that people remain indoors. I acknowledge that that may mean that some families are separated, but please continue to listen out for information as it comes to light that’s been directly provided by the New Zealand Police with further information,” she said.
Police have not confirmed a specific number of casualties but are warning people to stay indoors until the situation has resolved and to report any suspicious information to police. The areas surrounding Christchurch remain in lockdown.
Ardern will fly to Wellington immediately and will be meeting with law enforcement officials as soon as she lands. The Christchurch Hospital will be dedicated to be treating those injured in the incident.
Media reported that a gunman opened fire inside a mosque in Christchurch’s Hagley Park district.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the Al Noor mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere.”