New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Saturday that victims of a terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch were from across the Muslim world, underscoring the global impact of the attack.
Ardern said her government was working with consular officials from countries including “Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia,” to deal with the aftermath of the attack that killed 49 people.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home of its holiest sites, condemned “in the strongest terms possible the shootings at two mosques” in the city of Christchurch.
The foreign ministry said one Saudi citizen was lightly wounded in the attacks but was recovering.
A right-wing extremist armed with semi-automatic weapons rampaged through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers Friday, killing worshippers and wounding dozens more.
The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by Ardern, as she led a shocked nation on one of its “darkest days.”
The attacker live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.
A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been arrested and charged with murder.
He will appear at the Christchurch District Court early Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.
Despite his arrest, police warned New Zealanders Saturday to remain vigilant, saying there was “no guarantee the risk is limited” to the Christchurch region.
“Our investigations are in their early stages and we will be looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event,” police added in a statement.
The chief suspect allegedly published a racist “manifesto” on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Ardern, who is expected to visit Christchurch Saturday. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”
Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, police said.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.
His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people were killed, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.
The dead were said to include women and children.
Around 42 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, with two in critical condition. One of them, a four-year-old, was being transferred to another hospital Saturday.
The survivors included 17 members of Bangladesh’s cricket team, whose game against New Zealand on Saturday has been postponed, and a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.