Christchurch mosque massacre toll rises as police update on those arrested

Brenda Watkins
March 17, 2019

A suspect in the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques on Friday appeared in court on Saturday and was charged with murder.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush also said that 36 people are still hospitalized and that two of them are in critical condition.

Tarrant was arrested in a vehicle, which police said was carrying improvised explosive devices, 36 minutes after they were first called.

A total of four people were arrested in connection with the incident - one of whom was in possession of a firearm but with the intention of assisting police was released a short time later.

Two other people have been arrested in connection with the terror attack, and they remain in custody as police conduct an ongoing investigation as to their possible involvement.

Mr Bush said police would not release a list of the victims until they had been formally identified.

Reality television star Kim Kardashian applauded New Zealand after the country's leaders announced gun laws would change in wake of Friday's mosque shootings that left at least 49 people dead.

Ardern, who described the atrocity as a "terrorist attack" and "one of New Zealand's darkest days", vowed to impose stricter gun laws.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant faced court on Saturday charged with one count of murder in relation to the attacks. Police have warned the public that sharing the video is an offence and social media companies have said they are trying to scrub it from their platforms.

Two mosques were targeted in the attack.

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"As soon as New Zealanders hear that someone was legally able to acquire, as I'm advised, those weapons and carry out this event, that will raise enormous questions with our gun laws, and that is why we will respond swiftly", Ardern said of the situation at her press conference.

Bush said forensic officers and pathologists had been working around the clock to gather the evidence from the bodies needed.

New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people.

Tarrant did not have a criminal history and was not on any watchlists in New Zealand or Australia.

The visiting Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at one of the mosques when the shooting started but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.

Ardern said the main suspect was a licensed gun owner who used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.

US President Donald Trump, who condemned the attack as a "horrible massacre", was praised by the accused gunman in a manifesto posted online as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose".

Sanjiv Kohli, the Indian diplomat, tweeted after the attack on Friday: "As per updates received from multiple sources there are 9 missing persons of Indian nationality/origin".

Ardern called on the US government to show "sympathy and love for all Muslim communities", and told the press that "the person who has committed this violent act has no place here".

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