Christchurch Death Toll Rises to 50
The death toll in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques on Friday has risen to 50 after emergency workers found another body at one of the crime scenes.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced Sunday (local time in New Zealand) that all the bodies from both mosques had been removed from their locations. “In doing so, we were able to locate a further victim,” he said.
On Saturday, the main suspect in the shootings appeared in court in Christchurch.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian citizen and self-proclaimed white nationalist, was led by two armed guards into the court where a judge read one charge of murder to him. He wore prison robes and handcuffs and did not speak.
Reporters in the courtroom said the suspect smiled during his appearance. A photo showed him holding his left hand in an upside-down “OK” symbol, a gesture used by white supremacist groups.
After the suspect left the court, the judge said that while “there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others.”
Tarrant has not yet entered a plea. His next court appearance is set for April 5.
Two suspected accomplices have also been arrested. Police were trying to determine to what extent, if any, they were involved in the attack. None of the suspects were on a terrorism watch list in New Zealand or Australia.
Meanwhile, medical officials said 39 people wounded in the shootings were in hospitals; 11 of them were in critical condition.
In a news conference Saturday morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacker’s onslaught was cut short when he was apprehended. “It was his intention to continue his attack,” the prime minister said.
She called the mass shooting “an extraordinary act of violence” and vowed that “our gun laws will change.” She said the shooter had five guns, two of them semiautomatic. All the weapons were legally obtained.
The attack came during Friday prayers when the Al Noor Mosque and the nearby Linwood Mosque were filled with hundreds of worshippers.
The shooter livestreamed the assault on Facebook. He also published a 74-page white nationalist manifesto in which he denounced Muslims and called immigrants “invaders.”
The manifesto also said he chose to make his attack in New Zealand to show that nowhere in the world was safe.
Residents of Christchurch took flowers and other mementos to a makeshift memorial, and an online fund for the victims gathered $684,000 in a single day.
The victims of Friday’s shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Mass shootings and violent crime are rare in New Zealand, a country of nearly 5 million people. Until Friday, the country’s worst mass shooting was in 1990, when a lone gunman killed 13 people in the small town of Aramoana.