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Christchurch Shooting: New Zealand Rugby Star Sonny Bill Williams Mourns Victims In Tearful Tribute

New Zealand rugby great Sonny Bill Williams delivered a touching tribute to the victims of the recent shootings at two mosques in Christchurch.

Forty-nine people were killed and another 48 suffered injuries from two separate attacks targeting mosques during Friday prayers.

Williams, the first Muslim to represent the All Blacks—New Zealand’s rugby union team—posted a video tribute on Twitter following the attacks.

"I just heard the news and I couldn't put into words how I'm feeling right now," he said, as he fought back tears.

"Just sending my duas [supplication] to the families. Just sending my duas to your loved ones.

"Inshallah you guys are all in paradise.

"I'm just deeply saddened, saddened that this would happen in New Zealand.”

Williams has a strong connection with Christchurch as he played for the Crusaders —the city’s Super Rugby team—in 2011.

One of the best and most famous players of his generations, Williams has represented the All Blacks 53 times, winning the World Cup in 2011 and 2015 as New Zealand became the first country to successfully retain the trophy.

Having started his career in rugby league, Williams switched codes in 2008 when he moved to France to play for Toulon. He converted to Islam during his spell in France and has often credited his faith as the reason behind his sporting success.

The All Blacks also paid tribute to the victims.

"Christchurch, we stand with you during this time," the team tweeted via its official Twitter account. 

Members of the Bangladesh test cricket team had just arrived at the mosque when the first shots broke out on Friday. 

“They [the Bangladesh players] were just outside the mosque about to get off from the bus and go into the mosque when they heard shooting and a lot of people running out and they saw someone wounded in front of them," ESPN’s Bangladesh correspondent Mohammad Isam, who had traveled to Christchurch with the team, told The New Zealand Herald.

The third test between New Zealand and Bangladesh was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. local time on Saturday but has now been cancelled. 

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said a man in his late 20s was arrested and charged with murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Saturday morning. Two other armed suspects were held in custody.

While police have yet to identify any of the suspects, a man identifying himself as Brenton Tarrant broadcast live footage of the attack on Facebook. The live stream showed the 28-year-old Australian-born, driving to the Al-Noor mosque, before parking the car and entering the venue and firing at people inside.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the attacks were of “terrorist” nature and represented “one of New Zealand’s darkest days ”.

World leaders were united in condemning the attacks and in showing support for the people of Christchurch and of New Zealand as a whole.

“The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do,” President Donald Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison added, "I'm horrified by the reports I'm following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins."

Sonny Bill Williams Sonny Bill Williams of the Blues looks on during the Round 1 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park, in Auckland, New Zealand, on February 16. Williams, the first Muslim to represent the All Blacks—New Zealand’s rugby union team—posted a video tribute on Twitter following the attacks. Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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