A gunman entered a mosque and began shooting with an automatic weapon in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch on Friday.
Witneses said there were many dead. Police said they were dealing with an “active shooter” situation.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a statement.
Local media reported multiple casualties at one mosque and said another had been evacuated.
Police have not described the scale of the Friday shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.
Peneha said he went into the mosque to try and help. “I saw dead people everywhere.”
Sam Clarke, a reporter with TVNZ, spoke with several people inside the mosque when the shooting began. He told Al Jazeera a man entered with a machine gun and began firing.
“A gunman – dressed in black with a helmet carrying a machine gun – came into the back of the mosque and started firing into the people praying there,” said Clarke.
He said some managed to escape through windows and doors but “many people had been hit, some as young as 16”.
About 10 to 15 people were seen outside the mosque, “some alive, some dead”, said Clarke.
ESPN Cricinfo reporter Mohammed Isam said members of the Bangladesh cricket team, who are set to play a test match in Christchurch on Saturday, escaped from the mosque.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
“The players are shaken up but fine,” Villavarayen was quoted as saying.
1/2 A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter.Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off…
— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) March 15, 2019