Man charged with murder after 49 killed in New Zealand mosque attacks

A man has been charged with murder following the New Zealand shootings – as police have confirmed 49 people are dead.

Dozens of innocent worshippers were gunned down after attackers opened fire during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch.

Horrified witnesses have described seeing bodies everywhere, with one grieving man reportedly heard wailing: "My wife is dead."

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has since confirmed that 49 people were killed in the country’s worst ever mass shooting.

At least 20 others are said to be seriously injured.

Mr Bush told a news conference: "The total number of people who have died in this horrendous event is 49 and our hearts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends, all of their loved ones.

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"And I want to assure everyone that we do our best for them."

As many as 41 people died at one mosque, seven at another and one person died in hospital, the police commissioner told reporters.

He described the attack as a "very well-planned event".

The man charged with murder is said to be in his late 20s. He should appear in Christchurch court on Saturday, Mr Bush said.

Police had earlier said four people – three men and one woman – had been taken into custody in relation to the devastating shootings.

Officers responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at about 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).

They urged people in the area to stay indoors, while all schools in the city were put into lockdown.

One witness described how there were "bodies all over me", while others have recalled running for cover as bullets flew through the air.

"The guy was wearing like an army [suit]. He had a big gun and lots of bullets," one person told local media in New Zealand. "He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere."

Another eyewitness told Radio New Zealand that they saw "blood everywhere" at the Masjid Al Noor mosque.

And a third described the frantic scenes after an attacker burst into one of the mosques while worshippers knelt for prayers.

"He came through and started shooting like everyone in the mosque, like everywhere, and they have to smash the door and the glass from the window and from the small door to try and get out," he said.

Distressing video footage showed people huddled on the floor, either injured or dead, inside the mosque.

The two mosques targeted were Masjid Al Noor in central Christchurch, and the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque.

Farhaan Farheez was alongside other worshippers at Linwood when the shooting started – but said some did not leave immediately.

He told "I didn’t know what a gun sounded like. It is customary when we are praying not to pay attention to the outside world … gunshots kept happening and people kept praying."

Ahmed Tani, a refugee form Somalia, said he was walking to the mosque when he the heard gunshots break out.

"I was really frightened," he said.

"I come from Somalia and the last time I heard the sound of gunfire was eight years ago.

Police said IEDs, improvised explosive devices, were found in a vehicle they stopped.

Footage, which appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to the gunman’s head, showed red petrol canisters in the back of his car, along with weapons.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days."

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