Police are investigating a possible mass shooting Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand, and said there were multiple fatalities after attacks at two separate mosques.
Police said one person was in custody, but they were unsure if there were additional suspects involved.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there was a “very serious and grave situation” involving an active shooter just before 3 p.m. local time. He called for residents of the city to remain indoors as police conducted an investigation. Schools across the city were on lockdown.
Bush also encouraged people across the country to refrain from going to mosques until further notice.
“I want to ask anyone that was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go, to close your doors until you hear from us again,” Bush said in a video posted to Facebook.”
Radio NZ reported that hundreds of people were praying at one of the mosques when the shooting took place. Local hospital officials could not confirm any details about injuries or deaths related to the incident.
Len Peneha, who witnessed one of the shootings, told The Associated Press that she saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and heard dozens of shots, which sent people running.
“I saw dead people everywhere,” Peneha told AP.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could not confirm the numbers of fatalities but said it “was clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said, noting that many of those affected by the shooting may have been migrants to the country. “It has occurred in a place where people should have been expressing their religious freedom, where they should have been safe. They were not today.”
“They are us,” Ardern continued, referring to immigrants. “The person who perpetrated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”
She hesitated to label the incident a hate crime until more information comes to light.
A gunman appears to have live-streamed the attack. The video, filmed from a first-person view and viewed by a HuffPost editor, begins with a man saying, “Let’s get this party started.” He then drives for nearly six minutes before leaving his car. The shooter enters what appears to be a mosque and fires at a large number of people, sometimes at close range. After about six minutes, he begins driving to another location. “There wasn’t even time to aim, there were so many targets,” he says.
This article has been updated with a statement from New Zealand’s prime minister.