Christchurch, New Zealand – Forty-nine people were murdered and dozens more were injured during two mass shootings at city mosques on Friday.
It was the deadliest attack in the nation’s history, USA Today reported.
Nearly 50 people, some of whom are young children, are currently hospitalized with varying degrees of injuries due to the mas shooting, Canterbury District Health Board Chief Executive David Meates told The New York Times.
The 28-year-old gunman has been apprehended, police said.
He has been charged with murder, and is scheduled to appear in Christcurch court on Saturday morning.
Three other people – two men and one woman – have also been taken into custody, but investigators are still working to ascertain the extent of their involvement.
None of the four individuals were named on any security watch lists, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who called the attacks “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
She confirmed that the massacres “could only be described as a terrorist attack,” and that the effort was “well-planned.”
The gunman posted an 74-page manifesto online prior to the attack, and said he hoped to spark a civil war in the U.S.
He said he was born in Australia, according to The New York Times.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the gunman’s nationality, and said that he is “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” USA Today reported.
In his manifesto, the gunman focused primarily on “white genocide,” a white nationalist conspiracy theory where the birth rate of white people decline while the birth rate of non-white people increase.
He titled the document, “The Great Replacement,” and ranted about wanting to create “an atmosphere of fear” against Muslims, USA Today reported.
He described himself as being a communist and anarchist before moving on to being libertarian then an “eco-fascist” and ethnonationalist, and said he spent two years planning the attacks, but that he had only settled on Christchurch three months ago.
“I only arrived to New Zealand to live temporarily whilst I planned and trained, but I soon found out that New Zealand was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the west,” he wrote.
Above all, he said he wanted to convey the message that “nowhere in the world is safe.”
He even discussed the weapons he chose, explaining that he wanted to garner as much attention as possible.
“I chose firearms for the effect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the effect it could have on the politics of United States and thereby the political situation of the world,” he wrote.
The video of the attack shows him using a semi-automatic shotgun and semi-automatic rifle.
He posted a link to his manifesto on 8chan and Twitter, and also made a Facebook post announcing his plan to livestream the attack, according to The New York Times.
A Facebook Live video of a portion of the massacre appeared to have been recorded by a helmet camera worn by the gunman.
The video showed the gunman as he pulled up in front of Al Noor Mosque, then marched towards the mosque entrance, opening fire on those standing outside.
Once inside, he moved through the place of worship, murdering those he encountered for a full two minutes before he stepped back outside, fired in both directions down the sidewalk, and headed out to his vehicle to grab another gun.
He then went back into the mosque and killed several more people before he went back out to his vehicle and drove off.
“There wasn’t even time to aim, there were so many targets,” he said in the video, according to The New York Times.
The attacker also opened fire at Linwood Mosque, which is located approximately three miles away from the site of the initial attack.
Forty-one worshippers were killed at the Al Noor Mosque, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said during a press conference on Friday evening.
Seven more were murdered at the Linwood Mosque, and another victim died at a local hospital.
Investigators also located two explosive devices attached to a vehicle they intercepted, according to The New York Times.
One of the bombs has been defused, and police were still working to defuse the second one on Friday night, Commissioner Bush said.
He urged citizens to stay away from mosques throughout the country for the time being, and told such places of worship to “close your doors until you hear from us again.”
Omar Nabi, 43, said that he had to work on Friday, so he wasn’t at the Al Moor Mosque like he normally would be, NBC News reported.
But as word of the massacres spread, he raced to the scene to discover that his 71-year-old father, Daoud Nabi, was murdered while using his body to shield another victim from the attacker.
Many family members continue to wait for word on the safety of their loved ones.
“I don’t know whether my son Hussein El Omari is alive or dead,” said Janna Adnan Ezat, who has been unable to reach him. “The roads are blocked and we families are waiting at the hospital for word.”
She said her son’s vehicle was not at his house, and that he is not answering his cell phone.
Ardern said that Friday’s attacks will forever be known as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” The New York Times reported.
“Many of those affected may be migrants to New Zealand — they may even be refugees here,” she said of the massacre victims. “They are one of us. The person who has perpetrated these acts is not.”