Mosque Shootings Shock New Zealand

49 people died in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Wikimedia Commons)

49 people died in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Wikimedia Commons)

A gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15. The attacks took place during the Friday prayer time at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Masjid. 49 people died during the attacks on Friday afternoon and more than 40 others were injured according to BBC. Witnesses reported that over 300 people were present in the Al Noor Mosque area at the time the shootings took place.

The New Zealand Police put schools in lockdown and warned against attending mosque service in the immediate aftermath. The New Zealand police commissioner asked “anyone that was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go.” Four suspects are in police custody. BBC reports that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed in a press conference that the suspects include one Australian citizen and “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”

World leaders condemned the attack and expressed condolences to the victims. Ardern condemned the massacre as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and called the shootings “a terrorist attack.” Queen Elizabeth II of England, New Zealand’s head of state, was “deeply saddened” by the horrific attack and added that “at this tragic time, [her] thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.” Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji also expressed that “Fijian hearts are breaking for our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.”

Other world leaders attributed Islamophobia as the main motive of the massacre. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that Islamophobia “has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer.” The Australian prime minister remarked that “there is absolutely no place in either of our countries for hatred and intolerance that has bred this extremist, terrorist violence and we condemn it.” President Donald Trump, however, disagreed with the motive of Islamophobia, pointing out that he thought, “it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” while calling the attack a “terrible thing.”

Graphic footage of the attack circulated on the internet after the attack. New Zealand police tweeted, “Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.” However, footage continued to be reuploaded.

The shootings resparked debate about gun laws in New Zealand. According to BBC, “once a license has been issued, gun-owners can buy as many weapons as they want,” and citizens can own semi-automatic weapons once they turn 18. In response to the shootings, the prime minister vowed to toughen gun laws, saying that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether, reports the Guardian.