(Update: The death toll in the New Zealand mosque shootings has been amended to 50, after another body was recovered at the Al Noor mosque, where most of the fatalities occurred. Thirty-four people remain in hospital, 12 of them in a critical condition, according to Christchurch Hospital staff. Police have confirmed that, aside from the man charged with murder on Saturday, three others arrested on the day of the attack are now not believed to have been involved.)
(CNSNews.com) – Forty-nine people have been killed in shootings at two separate mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers, police have confirmed.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four people were in custody, although police were not assuming others were not at large. One of the four was not believed to be directly involved in the attack. A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, and will appear in court on Saturday. Investigations into the others are continuing.
The death toll could climb further, as more than 40 more were injured in the attacks, which occurred during early afternoon prayers at the Al Noor Mosque in the center of the city, and the Linwood mosque about four miles away.
Two improvised explosive devices were found in a nearby vehicle linked to the suspects, and disarmed, Bush said. A number of firearms were recovered at both mosques.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts of unprecedented violence.”
“This is not an enclave for that kind of behavior, for that kind of ideology,” she said. “We will and must reject it. This is a place where people should feel secure, and will feel secure.”
One of the shooters used a helmet cam to livestream part of the attack, posting graphic footage on social media. Around 17 minutes of footage accessible for several hours on one site were eventually taken down, with the message, “This thread has been deleted because of a possible violation of our terms of service.” By then, on that site alone, the clip had received tens of thousands of views.
In the clip the man, armed with an automatic rifle and speaking with what sounded like an Australian accent, identified himself as Brenton Tarrant. A Twitter account in that name was later suspended. A lengthy manifesto by the self-described “eco-jihadist,” posted online, sought to justify the massacre.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that an Australian citizen – an “extremist, right wing violent terrorist” – was under arrest in New Zealand.
Bush, the police commissioner, said that the suspects had not been on security watchlists in either New Zealand or Australia.
Ardern urged people not to watch or share the online video clip.
“We should not be perpetuating, sharing, giving any oxygen to this act of violence and the message that sat behind it.”
New Zealand has a population of just 4.5 million, with Muslims accounting for about 1.1. percent. Located on New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is the country’s third-largest city. A severe earthquake in 2011 cost 185 lives.