New Zealand police were hunting “an active shooter” in the center of Christchurch city on Friday after a gunman opened fire at a mosque inflicting several casualties.
Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press 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. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
In response to a serious ongoing firearms incident in Christchurch all Christchurch schools have been placed into lockdown. Police urge anyone in central Christchurch to stay off the streets and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told broadcaster One News that he saw three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying that the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
“The players are shaken up but fine,” Villavarayen was quoted as saying.