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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5:11 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Australian PM asks for flags to be flown at half-mast

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has asked for flags to be flown at half-mast out of respect for those killed in the attack.

"Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence. Kia kaha (stay strong)," Morrison tweeted earlier.

"New Zealand, like Australia, is home to people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. There is absolutely no place in either of our countries for the hatred and intolerance that has bred this extremist, terrorist violence and we condemn it," he added.

4:53 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

New Zealand cricket team cancels upcoming match with Bangladesh

The New Zealand cricket team, the Black Caps, announced it would suspend its Saturday match with Bangladesh in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by the shocking situation in Christchurch," the team said in a statement.

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team were almost caught up in the attack. The team bus was pulling up at one of the mosques when the shooting began.

4:52 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Muslim countries offer condolences to victims of New Zealand terrorist attacks

Muslim-majority nations Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan have condemned the twin attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the terrorist attacks were examples of "rising racism and Islamophobia."

"On behalf of my country, I offer my condolences to the Islamic world and the people of New Zealand, who have been targeted by this deplorable act," he said in a statement.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was "shocked" by the attack. "This reaffirms what we have always maintained: That terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families," he said on his official Twitter.

In a separate statement, the Malaysian government said two of their citizens had been injured in the attack.

"Malaysia condemns in the strongest terms this senseless act of terror on innocent civilians and hopes that those responsible for this barbaric crime be brought to justice," a statement from the foreign ministry said.

4:30 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

NZ police: Explosive devices only found on one vehicle

New Zealand commissioner Mike Bush said two improvised explosive devices were found on one of the attackers' vehicles.

This was slightly different to previous statements that multiple vehicles had been found with explosives attached.

4:19 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Witness saw young girl shot in the back

One witness, who did not want to be named, told CNN that he was driving by the mosque but pulled over to help when he saw people lying on the ground outside.

"I was driving by, I saw people lying in the ground so I pulled over and then once I got out of my truck I heard all the gunshots going off," he said. "So I’m just trying to help them and one guy just looked like he was gone."

He said he saw a man with a "with his 3 or 4-year-old daughter" who had been shot in the back. 

"He was screaming like get her to the hospital and the ambulance couldn't come in until it was secured so I just got my truck and loaded up him, and his daughter, and this other guy had been shot in the leg, and took them to the hospital," he said. 

 Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Manurewa on March 15.
 Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Manurewa on March 15. Phil Walter/Getty Images

4:14 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

NZ police: Terrorist attack was "well-planned"

New Zealand commissioner Mike Bush said the attack was "very well-planned," adding mosques across the country would remain under police protection for the moment.

Asked why the attackers weren't on New Zealand watchlists, Bush said the four people in custody weren't on any Australian security watch lists either.

At least one of the attackers has already been confirmed as an Australian citizen.

Bush wanted to commend the work of police officers who went "above and beyond" to apprehend the offenders and protect the community during the attack.

4:12 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

NZ police: Death toll rises to 49

New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said the death toll in the two mosque attacks has increased to 49.

The vast majority, 41 people, were killed in the attack on the Deans Avenue mosque shooting, Bush said.

According to the police, one man has already been charged with murder in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

3:55 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

New Zealand gun laws likely to face renewed scrutiny in light of Friday's attack

New Zealand is not used to mass shootings of the kind seen at the two mosques in Christchurch on Friday that killed at least 40 people and left 48 injured.

Until Friday, the biggest massacre in the country’s history happened 30 years ago, when a man named David Gray went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 people.

Following the attack, the nation’s gun laws -- which were first passed in 1983 -- came under scrutiny. The ensuing debate led to a 1993 amendment on the regulation of military-style semi-automatic firearms.

The country’s gun laws are still considered to be relatively relaxed compared to non-US nations -- gun owners do need a license but they aren’t required to register their guns. 

While authorities do not know exactly how many legally or illegally owned firearms are currently in circulation in New Zealand, estimates put the number at about 1.2 million, according to New Zealand Police. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, if a person wants to buy a gun, they must be over the age of 16 and pass a police background check. 

New Zealand police officers are not routinely armed, but recent figures suggest more officers are in favor of carrying guns. 

A 2017 survey from the New Zealand Police Associated showed that that 66% of its members support arming officers, according to TVNZ.

That figure has significantly increased from a decade ago when 48% of officers supported general arming in 2008.

New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 -- less than the number of people who died in Friday's double mosque attack.

4:40 a.m. ET, March 15, 2019

Melbourne to light up in New Zealand colors to honor Christchurch victims

Melbourne, one of Australia's largest cities, will light up in the colors of New Zealand on Friday night to remember those killed in the terrorist attacks in Christchurch.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the move on Friday, which will include some of the city's most recognizable landmarks including the town halls, the state library and Flinders Street Station.

"Victorians stand with Christchurch tonight, after this darkest of days. And we must all stand against the forces in our society that try and stir up animosity and anger. That try to divide us," Andrews said on his official Twitter.

Flags will also be flown at half mast on Saturday across the city, he said.