Dozens killed in Christchurch mosque attack

By Ben Westcott, Jenni Marsh, Helen Regan, Meg Wagner, Brian Ries, Veronica Rocha, Aimee Lewis, Rob Picheta and Harmeet Kaur, CNN

Updated 0234 GMT (1034 HKT) March 17, 2019
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8:57 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

White House official on New Zealand attack: This "seems to be a terrorist attack"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

National security advisor John Bolton expanded upon the White House’s statement on the attack on New Zealand mosques, which he characterized as “what seems to be a terrorist attack” and a “hate crime.”

Bolton said the US is “very concerned” and is following the events “very closely.” 

He told reporters Friday morning:

“We’re obviously greatly disturbed on what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime in New Zealand. We’ve been in touch with our embassy overnight, we’re still getting details, but the State Department and others are following up on it."

Bolton continued, “We’re very concerned, we’re going to cooperate with New Zealand authorities to the extent we can if there’s any role we can play, but we’re obviously following the events there very closely.”

7:51 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Donald Trump tweets "warmest sympathy" after "horrible massacre"

US President Donald Trump has tweeted in response to the attack.

His message follows an earlier White House statement in response to the mass shootings at New Zealand mosques that left 49 dead.

“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate,” said the statement.

Global leaders have also been sending messages of support. "On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch," British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on Twitter. "My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence."

"All our thoughts for the victims of heinous crimes against the mosques of Christchurch in New Zealand and for their loved ones," French President Emmanuel Macron added.

7:39 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Tributes outside mosque attacked in 2017

Flowers and messages have been left outside London's Finsbury Park Mosque, which suffered its own tragedy in 2017 when a man deliberately drove a van into pedestrians outside, killing one Muslim worshiper and injuring several others.

7:31 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

"Shame on the people who have promoted this kind of hate"

Speaking on CNN Talk, political commentator Ayesha Hazarika said that, as a Muslim, she is "sickened and frightened" by the attacks.

"We have a culture, a media and social media culture, that not only tolerates hatred to Muslims but celebrates it," she said. "Shame on the people who have promoted this kind of hate.

"I have friends who have contacted me saying they’re scared to go to mosques. Today is a dark day," said Hazarika.

Police cordon off Linwood Avenue near the Linwood mosque
Police cordon off Linwood Avenue near the Linwood mosque Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

7:23 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Twitter, YouTube and Facebook attempt to deal with attack "footage"


Tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are responding to the attacks, one of which appeared to be live-streamed by one of the shooters.

The disturbing video, which has not been verified by CNN, purportedly shows a gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire.

Twitter has a "dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this," the company said in a statement to CNN.

Facebook is "removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we're aware," a spokesperson said.

Google and YouTube added in a statement: "Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy. Shocking, violent and graphic content has no place on our platforms, and is removed as soon as we become aware of it. As with any major tragedy, we will work cooperatively with the authorities.”

But some experts have criticized the platforms for their response to other harmful content.

"While Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all say that they're cooperating and acting in the best interest of citizens to remove this content, they're actually not because they're allowing these videos to reappear all the time," Lucinda Creighton, a senior adviser at international policy organization the Counter Extremism Project, told CNN Business.

Read more about the companies' responses here.

7:59 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

France boosting security at places of worship

France is joining countries including the UK and the US in confirming that mosques and places of worship will see increased security on Friday.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ‏said he had asked local officials to "strengthen surveillance" at places of worship as a precaution. "Patrols will be provided in the vicinity of denominational spaces," he wrote on Twitter.

Officials in London and police in Los Angeles, New York and Minneapolis earlier announced that they would be stepping up security at mosques.

7:26 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Queen Elizabeth II offers condolences to New Zealand

Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand's monarch and the head of the Commonwealth, has released a message to the people of the country.

She said she was "deeply saddened" by the news, and paid tribute to emergency services.

Here's the full message:

“I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.
I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured.
At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.
Elizabeth R"
6:48 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Attack "a further warning" on dangers of hate

Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has condemned the attacks. The OIC represents 57 nations with large or majority-Muslim populations.

"The brutal crime had shocked and hurt the feelings of all Muslims around the world, and served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia," he said. Al-Othaimeen urged the New Zealand authorities to investigate the attack thoroughly.

6:53 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

"We feel defeated," says Christchurch radio host

Journalist Chris Lynch, host of the radio show "Canterbury Mornings" on Newstalk ZB, has described Christchurch as "eerily quiet."

“It’s a very surreal experience," the New Zealander told CNN.

The New Zealand flag flies at half-mast outside the Parliament building in Wellington on Friday evening.
The New Zealand flag flies at half-mast outside the Parliament building in Wellington on Friday evening. MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images

"What many of us in Christchurch are struggling to comprehend is the graphic nature. We’ve had our experience of terrible natural disasters ... but it felt like the city was starting to feel alive again. This just takes us back. We all feel deflated. We feel like our city has gone through hell again. We feel defeated.

"It [the al Noor mosque] always played an important role in the community. Every year it opens its doors to the people of Christchurch. The people are lovely, generous people. It’s not a closed-off environment. It’s a very friendly mosque, the same with the mosque in Linwood. It’s an absolute tragedy for everybody.

"It’s not usual for us to have guns. We’re a strong hunting country but that’s as far as it goes. The right to hold arms is not in our nature," Lynch said.