Christchurch shootings: Attack suspect Brenton Tarrant appears in court

Friday - 15/03/2019 21:18
IREUTERS / Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday in relation to the mosque attacks
IREUTERS / Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday in relation to the mosque attacks
The main suspect in the mosque shootings that killed 49 people in New Zealand on Friday has appeared in court on a single murder charge.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in the dock in a white prison shirt and handcuffs. Further charges are expected to be made against him.

PM Jacinda Ardern said Mr Tarrant had five guns and a firearms licence, adding: "Our gun laws will change." 

Two others are in custody. None of those detained had a criminal record.

Mr Tarrant was remanded in custody without plea and is due appear in court again on 5 April.

The first victim of Friday's attack has been named by his family as Daoud Nabi, 71, who moved to New Zealand from Afghanistan in the 1980s. 

Omar Nabi holds a phone with a picture of his father Daoud, who died in the Christchurch mosque shootings (16 March)
Omar Nabi holds a phone with a picture of his father Daoud, outside the court building

The identities of the other victims have not yet been released. 

A total of 48 people were wounded in the shootings. Among those injured are two young boys - aged two and 13. Eleven of those being treated at Christchurch Hospital are in a critical condition in intensive care, chief of surgery Greg Robertson said. 

Bangladesh, India and Indonesia all say some of their citizens were killed in the shooting and others are unaccounted for. 

On Saturday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel expressed "revulsion" at this "act of terrorism" and voiced solidarity with the victims.

"We have welcomed new people into our city. They are our friends, they are our neighbours," she told reporters. "We want to come together to support them."

She added that flags would fly at half-mast on government buildings in the city "until further notice". 

Security remains tight across Christchurch. All mosques in New Zealand have been closed.

How events unfolded

The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch during Friday prayers at 13:40 (00:40 GMT). 

A gunman drove to the front door, entered and fired on worshippers for about five minutes. 

The gunman, who live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera, identified himself as Brenton Tarrant in the footage, which showed him shooting at men, women and children.

Map of the route of the attack

A survivor told the New Zealand Herald newspaper how he escaped through a window.

Moroccan-born Nour Tavis said he was in the front row when the shooting started.

"People were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall," he said. He saw someone smash a window. "I followed… it was the safest place to get out."

The wife of one of his friends was killed, he said. 

"When she heard the noise, she wanted to go and make sure her husband was safe," he said. "She got the bullet, her husband got away."

Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque in Kilbirnie in Wellington on 15 March 2019
Flowers were placed at a mosque in the capital, Wellington, and others around New Zealand

The gunman is then said to have driven about 5km (three miles) to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood where the second shooting occurred.

One witness described how one of the worshippers had managed to disarm the man, who ran to a waiting car outside.

 Media captionChristchurch was put into lockdown as events unfolded 
Christchurch was put into lockdown as events unfolded 

It is not clear where the arrests were made. 

Police say they recovered firearms from both mosques, and explosive devices were found in a car belonging to one of the suspects.

According to the latest census figures, Muslims make up about 1.1% of New Zealand's population of 4.25 million.

Numbers rose sharply as New Zealand took in refugees from various war-torn countries since the 1990s.

The main suspect

The main suspect had "travelled around the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand", Prime Minister Ardern told reporters.

"I would not describe him as a long-term resident," she said, without formally identifying him.

"The offender was in possession of a gun licence. I'm advised that this was acquired in November of 2017," Ms Ardern said. 

She said New Zealand intelligence services had been stepping up investigations into far-right extremists, but added: "The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community nor the police for extremism."

In the wake of Saturday's attacks, social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.


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