Christchurch shootings: Attacker was ‘lone gunman’


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Media captionNew Zealand gun laws will change, says PM

The man charged over Friday’s twin mosque attacks in the New Zealand city of Christchurch is believed to have acted alone, police say.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist, live-streamed the attack on Facebook.

Three others arrested afterwards are not believed to have been involved, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, but added that he could not be conclusive.

Fifty people were killed and 50 injured in what is New Zealand’s worst attack.

Some 34 people remain in hospital receiving treatment for injuries ranging from severe gunshot wounds to “relatively superficial soft tissue injuries”, authorities said.

A four-year-old girl remains in a critical condition.

What is the latest?

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that cabinet meetings would take place on Monday to discuss issues including gun policy reform. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said. She added that parliament would pay tribute to victims in the house on Tuesday.

Ms Ardern said she expected the bodies of all those killed to be returned to their families by Wednesday.

She also said that “there are further questions to be answered” regarding the role of social media sites such as Facebook, which was used to broadcast live footage of the attacks.

“These social media platforms have a wide reach, and this is a problem that goes way beyond New Zealand,” she said.

Meanwhile, Facebook has said that as many as 1.5m videos of the attack were removed from its platform in the first 24 hours. It said it was also removing “all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content”.

Ms Ardern confirmed that her office had received a document from the suspect nine minutes before the attacks began, but that it did not contain any specific details, such as a location. She said it was forwarded to the security services within two minutes.

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Image caption Members of the public visit a memorial at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch on Sunday

Separately, Commissioner Bush said that authorities were working as fast as they could to finish formally identifying the victims of the attacks at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques.

He added that it was a sensitive process and that he was “aware of the cultural and religious needs”.

Who has been linked to the attacks?

On Saturday, the main suspect appeared in court in a white prison shirt and handcuffs, smiling for the cameras.

He has been charged with one count of murder – with more charges expected to follow.

Commissioner Bush told a news conference that the 28-year-old was the only person charged with carrying out the shootings.

“He was stopped because he was believed to be a direct threat, our staff acted with absolute courage in intervening and had to use some force… they put themselves in harm’s way to stop any further attack – and I do believe they did prevent further attacks,” he said.

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Image caption Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder

Commissioner Bush said police did not believe that two people arrested near the scene were involved. A woman was released without charge and a man was charged with firearms offences.

An 18-year-old was also arrested but his involvement was said to be “tangential” and he would appear in court on Monday, Commissioner Bush added.

However he cautioned: “I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved.”

None of those detained had a criminal record.

Mr Tarrant has been remanded in custody without a plea and is due to appear in court again on 5 April.

The presiding judge ruled that the suspect’s face should be pixellated in photographs and moving images to preserve his fair trial rights.

Ms Ardern said Mr Tarrant had a firearms licence and owned five guns.

What stories are emerging of victims?

Stories of bravery have been emerging in the aftermath of the attacks.

Two of the six Pakistanis killed – Naeem Rashid, 50, and his 21-year-old son Talha – had been living in New Zealand since 2010.

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Media captionVictim’s brother: “No words to describe the pain”

Mr Rashid has been hailed as a hero on social media after being seen in a video of the attacks apparently trying to tackle the gunman at Al Noor mosque before being shot.

His brother Khursheed Alam in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad, told the BBC’s Secunder Kermani he was proud of his actions.

“He was a brave person,” Mr Alam said. “I’ve heard from people there… there were a few witnesses who said he saved a few lives by trying to stop that guy.”

But he went to add that even though his brother was being hailed as a hero by some people, it was “still a shock for us”.

“It’s our pride now, but still the loss – it’s like cutting your limb off really.”

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Media captionAli Adeeba: “He (his father) is the one that actually took a bullet for me”

Mr Alam said he was angry.

“Terrorists don’t have a religion,” he said, adding “crazy people” had to be stopped.

At the other mosque attacked, in Linwood, a similar intervention occurred.

Abdul Aziz says he ran towards the gunman outside the mosque, throwing a credit card machine at him.

In the ensuing chase, the gunman dropped one of his weapons and went to fetch more from his car, when Mr Aziz tossed the gun towards him, smashing the car window.

The gunman then drove off and was arrested moments later.

Officials in New Zealand have shared a list of victims with families, but not released it publicly.

Some of the other known victims are:

  • Sayyad Milne, 14, who wanted to be a footballer when he grew up
  • Daoud Nabi, 71, who is believed to have thrown himself in front of other people in the mosque to protect them
  • Fahraj Ahsan, 30, an Indian software engineer who lived in Christchurch with his wife and two children, a girl aged three and a boy of seven months
  • Khaled Mustafa, a refugee from the war in Syria
  • Hosne Ara, 42, killed while searching for her husband who uses a wheelchair – he survived

How did events unfold?

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 mosque, parked nearby and began firing into the mosque as he walked in through the front entrance. He fired on men, women and children inside for about five minutes. He live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera and identified himself in the footage.

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

Ms Ardern said the guns used by the attacker appeared to have been modified, and that the suspect’s car was full of weapons, suggesting “his intention to continue with his attack”.

He had obtained a gun licence in November 2017 that allowed him to buy the weapons used in the attack.

The suspect had not been on the radar of security services in New Zealand or Australia.

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Media captionChristchurch shootings: Flowers and Haka

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