A mass shooting at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch has prompted a major police response on Friday afternoon.
Law-enforcement officials say there are multiple fatalities. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said one suspect is in custody. Locals have been urged to stay indoors as the police operation continues.
The suspected gunman is said to have targeted two mosques and the main hospital in the area, police said. The hospital, as well as much of the city, remains on lockdown.
“Police is responding to a very serious and tragic incident involving an active shooter in central Christchurch. One person is in custody, however Police believe there may be other offenders,” Bush said. He added that the situation is evolving and confirmed that there have been a number of fatalities.
“We urge New Zealanders to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behavior immediately to 111,” the commissioner said.
Police are working nationally to bring in resources. They urged Christchurch residents to stay inside.
All mosques nationally have been asked to shut their doors until further notice.
Eyewitnesses reported a man with a gun entered one of the city’s mosques at around 1:40 p.m. local time.
It was not immediately clear how many people were injured or killed. The Associated Press reported a witness who said “many” people were killed.
Police confirmed to INSIDER that the situation is ongoing, but would not comment on the number of fatalities.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern said during a press conference that the shooting involves multiple scenes and that the situation is ongoing.
“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” she said Friday afternoon. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unpredenceted act of violence.”
“Many of those impacted by the shootings may be migrants, and they have chosen to make New Zealand their home. They are us. The person who perpetuated this violence is not.”
“There is absolutely no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts of unprecedented violence.”
According to Radio New Zealand, there were up to 300 people inside the mosque for afternoon prayers.
A witness told Radio New Zealand that a man in a helmet and glasses and a military style jacket entered the mosque and began shooting with an automatic weapon.
Police confirmed to Guardian reporter Eleanor Ainge Roy that a bomb was located inside a vehicle close to the Al Noor mosque where the shooting is reported to have taken place.
“You’re not safe here, there’s a bomb in that car,” a senior police officer told Roy.
Police have not yet publicly commented on the bomb threat.