New Zealand mosque terror attack suspect charged with murder
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on March 16 after 49 people were killed and dozens wounded in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques.
Tarrant, handcuffed and wearing a white prison suit, stood silently in the Christchurch District Court where he was remanded without a plea. He is due back in court on April 5 and police said he was likely to face further charges.
The attack, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled as terrorism, was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country had raised its security threat level to the highest.
Tarrant has been described as a suspected white supremacist, based on his social media activity.
Footage of the attack on one of the mosques was broadcast live on Facebook, and a "manifesto" denouncing immigrants as "invaders" was also posted online via links to related social media accounts.
The video showed a man driving to the Al Noor mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people with a semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines. Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay on the floor, the video showed.
At one stage the shooter returns to his car, changes weapons, re-enters the mosque and again begins shooting. The camera attached to his head recording the massacre follows the barrel of his weapon, like some macabre video game.
Forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor mosque.
One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman burst in as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
"He came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Police said the alleged shooter took seven minutes to travel to the second mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven people were killed. No images have emerged from the second mosque.
Tarrant was arrested in a car, which police said was carrying improvised explosive devices, 36 minutes after they were first called.
Twelve operating theatres worked through the night on the more than 40 people wounded, said hospital authorities.
The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan. Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population. Three Turks were wounded in the shootings. None of them have life-threatening wounds.
Tarrant lived in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, and was a member of the Bruce Rifle Club, according to media reports which quoted club members saying he often practiced shooting an AR-15, which is a lightweight semi-automatic rifle.
Leaders around the world expressed sorrow and disgust at the attacks, with some deploring the demonization of Muslims.
U.S. 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.”
Political and Islamic leaders across Asia and the Middle East voiced concern over the targeting of Muslims.
"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11," Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan posted on social media. "1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror."