At least 49 people were killed and 20 wounded in two shootings in mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand on Friday morning (local time), according to local media.
The local police commissioner confirmed that there were multiple fatalities in the shootings. One person is in custody.
An eyewitness, Len Peneha, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, Chairman, Chabad ACT Ltd and Treasurer, Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, expressed shock and pain at the horrific attack.
Rabbi Feldman wrote:
“We are deeply pained by the senseless acts of hate and murder that took place today at Mosques in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends in the Muslim community and beyond.
An attack at a place of worship, indiscriminately targeting civilians, is just pure evil and an affront to all those who cherish life and freedom.
Whilst we are shocked and shaken by everything that has happened, we are also grateful to the NZ police and all of the first responders for their heroic efforts.
The grand Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught of the need to turn tears into action.
I ask all Synagogues, especially throughout Australia and New Zealand, to dedicate prayers this Shabbat for the healing of the victims in this heinous attack.
As we will continue to pray for the speedy recoveries of the many victims and their families, let us take courage from the age-old Jewish adage “a little bit of light will dispel a great deal of darkness”. It is an indisputable reality: when light and goodness encounter darkness and hate, light and goodness will -without fail- prevail.
Lastly, across the globe, people of all faith and persuasions, let us join together, in ensuring that the lives of the victims live on. We do this by continuing the unity being displayed in fighting hate and by the enormous outpouring of love and prayer, in our own homes, respective places of worship and communities and, indeed, in the world at large.”
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who serves as the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, responded, “There can be few acts of greater evil than the massacre of peaceful people at prayer.”
“The attacks in New Zealand were terrorism of the most despicable kind, callously planned and motivated by the scourge of Islamophobia. The victims and their families are in our hearts and our prayers.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “Israel mourns the wanton murder of innocent worshipers in Christchurch and condemns the brazen act of terror in New Zealand.”
“Israel sends its condolences to the bereaved families and its heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.”