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Toll Hits 49 in NZ Mosque Shootings

Newser — Rob Quinn

The death toll in Friday's mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has now hit 49, making it the country's deadliest outbreak of violence since a WWII POW camp riot.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who described Friday as one of New Zealand's "darkest days," has raised the country's terror alert to its second-highest level for the first time in New Zealand history.

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," she said, denouncing the "extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence." More:

  • Suspects in custody.

Police say three men and a woman, including an Australian citizen, were taken into custody after the attacks and one was later charged with murder, the AP reports.

A suspect who livestreamed horrifying video of the attack on one mosque identified himself as Brenton Tarrant and left a manifesto in which he described himself as an Australian and a racist.

Authorities say none of the suspects were on watch lists.

  • Two mosques targeted. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says 41 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque in downtown Christchurch and seven at a mosque in suburban Linwood, the Washington Post reports.

A 49th victim died in the hospital. Authorities say at least 48 people, including young children, were treated at Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds.

  • 'No place in New Zealand.' "These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world," Ardern said of the suspects.

The country's "values will not and cannot be shaken," she said. "This is a place where people should feel secure."

  • Suspect praised Breivik, Trump. In Tarrant's manifesto, he slammed immigration and multiculturalism and described Australia as a "European colony," the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

He praised Anders Breivik for inspiring the attack and claimed to have received a "blessing" from the Norwegian mass killer's associates. He also praised President Trump as a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," but not as a "policy maker and leader."

  • 'Absolute acts of bravery.' Bush told reporters there were "absolute acts of bravery" involved in the arrests of the alleged attackers, the New Zealand Herald reports.

He said explosive devices were found and defused in two vehicles. Asked whether a suspect had been wearing wired explosives, the commissioner said that person had been "made safe."

  • 'He had a big gun.' A man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque described the suspect as a white man wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest who burst in as worshipers were kneeling for Friday prayers, Reuters reports.

"He had a big gun ... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the witness. He said he was among a group of people who escaped by breaking through a glass door.

  • Worldwide condemnation. Leaders around the world condemned the attack, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he was "shocked, appalled, and outraged" by the attack, the Herald reports. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it the "latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia" and offered his condolences to "the Islamic world and the people of New Zealand, who have been targeted by this deplorable act," the AP reports.

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This article originally appeared on Newser: Toll Hits 49 in NZ Mosque Shootings