A suspected white supremacist was charged with murder after 49 people were killed and dozens were injured in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques on Friday, in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack”.
A 28-year-old Australian suspect, identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in Christchurch district court on Saturday at 11:00 am local time.
New Zealand Police wrote on Twitter: “While the man is currently facing only one charge, further charges will be laid.” Two others are currently in custody.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a press statement: “41 people were killed at the Deans Avenue mosque, and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. One has since died in hospital.”
Funerals were planned for some of the victims on Saturday, some of which were immigrants.
Two of those injured are a critical condition, which includes a four-year-old child, Bush added.
The attacker live streamed footage of the attack on one of the mosques on Facebook and a “manifesto” was also posted online, denouncing immigrants and calling them “invaders”.
The footage, which lasted over 16 minutes, was posted on a page belonging to Brenton Tarrant but was quickly deleted by Facebook.
It appeared to have been filmed with a head camera and shows a man in combat gear driving to the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch. After parking his vehicle, he picks up one of a number of rifles inside and walks to the mosque and starts shooting as he approaches the door.
The gunman’s video also showed red petrol canisters in the back of his car, along with weapons.
Tarrant was arrested in a car, which police said had improvised explosive devices.
“The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch on Saturday.
Ardern added that Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who allegedly used five weapons, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns that were modified.
The Prime Minister pledged that the country’s gun laws would change, adding that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.
There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand for a population of nearly five million. However, the country has maintained a low level of gun violence with Friday’s attack being the biggest mass shooting in the country’s recent history.
Suspect charged with murder
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that an Australian citizen with far-right extremist views was among those taken into custody.
The writer of the manifesto said he is 28 and Australian. The document, stretching to more than 16,000 words, rails against immigration and cites a list of events from various periods of history which inspired his self-acknowledged terrorist attack.
He also said that he decided to commit the murders following a trip to Europe in 2017 when he saw Emmanuel Macron triumph over his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections and saw people he believed were immigrants living in France.
He denied acting on behalf of a group.