President Donald Trump reached out to New Zealand on Friday after 49 people were killed and dozens were injured in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch.
“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques,” Trump tweeted. “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured.
“The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also issued a statement condemning the attack in Christchurch.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” she said. “We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 15, 2019
National Security Adviser John Bolton labeled the incident a terrorist attack, CNN reported.
“We’re obviously greatly disturbed on what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime in New Zealand,” Bolton said. “We’ve been in touch with our embassy overnight, we’re still getting details, but the State Department and others are following up on it.
“We’re very concerned, we’re going to cooperate with New Zealand authorities to the extent we can if there’s any role we can play, but we’re obviously following the events there very closely.”
On Friday, a heavily armed man opened fire during prayers at one Christchurch mosque, which was soon followed with an attack at a second mosque.
Police also said at least one explosive device was found in a nearby car, The New York Times reported.
“I saw dead people everywhere,” witness Len Peneha said, according to The Associated Press. “There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Peneha, who lives next to the mosque, said he saw a man enter the building and heard shots fired, then saw the man drop a gun in his driveway before fleeing.
“What I did was basically just waiting and praying, ‘God please, let this guy run out of bullets,'” said one unnamed survivor quoted by the BBC. “He came to this side, he shot this side, he went to another room and went to the ladies’ section and shot them. I just heard one of the ladies has died.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the incident a well-planned “terrorist attack,” making for “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” according to The Washington Post.
“What has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said, describing the shooting as “an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
The BBC reported that the man identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, 28, of Australia. The attack was live-streamed to Facebook.
Footage showed the attacker firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the first mosque targeted.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the man as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist.
Officials said the attacker was not known to them prior to Friday’s rampage.
Police said the suspect, who was arrested, left behind a 74-page manifesto. The document mentioned Trump.
“As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no,” it said.
The document said he was emulating other shooters, including Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-American worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.