New Zealand police hunt 'active shooter' after gunman opens fire at mosque
Emergency services personnel transport a stretcher carrying a person at a hospital, after reports that several shots had been fired, in central Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019, in this still image taken from video. TVNZ/via REUTERS TV
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand police were hunting "an active shooter" in the centre of Christchurch city on Friday after a gunman opened fire at a mosque inflicting several casualties.
A witness told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the mosque.
"A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter," New ZealandPolice Commissioner Mike Bush said.
"Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high."
The Bangladesh cricket team was going to Friday prayers at the mosque, the Masjid Al Noor, when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
Media reported that a gunman opened fire inside mosque in Christchurch's Hagley Park district. There were reports of armed police at a second mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
People in centre of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed into lockdown.
Police did not immediately comment on whether the incident took place in the mosque or nearby. There is no official confirmation on casualties.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told broadcaster One News that he had seen three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and "there was blood everywhere".
"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.
"They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message.
"They are shaken but good.”
Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population, a 2013 census showed.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)
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