The death toll in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers has increased to 49, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
He added that a man had been charged with murder in connection with the terrorist attack and will be produced before court on Saturday. Bush was speaking to the media for the second time after the attack.
“One person, a male in his late 20s, has been charged with murder, and should appear in the Christchurch Court tomorrow morning,” he said.
- Man charged identified as 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant
- PM Ardern alludes to anti-immigrant sentiment as possible motive
- 4 people taken into custody; multiple explosives found and defused
- Bangladesh cricket team flee site, 3rd Test cancelled
- Video of shootings reportedly recorded by attacker shared on social media
Earlier, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said that 40 people had been killed while 20 were injured in the deadly attack and called it one of the country’s “darkest days”.
This can “only be described as a terrorist attack”, she said in a second press conference following the shootings in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch, adding that the national security level has been changed from low to “high”.
“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned,” she said. “Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed.”
She confirmed that four people, one of whom is an Australian, had been detained but said that none of them was on a terror watch list. The prime minister, however, said that she could not “give specifics about who was directly involved at each mosque”.
Ardern said the country was attacked because New Zealand “represents diversity”. She added that she planned to “get to Christchurch as early as I can”.
She also urged people not to share the video of the attack as well as the manifesto of the alleged shooter and added that websites, where pictures and videos had been shared, were working on taking them down.
“My message would be we should not be perpetuating, sharing, giving any oxygen to this act of violence and the message that’s set behind it.”
Authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people. Authorities have not elaborated on who they detained. But a man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions.
The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting identified himself as Brenton Tarrant and said he was 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organisation, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.
He said that the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there. He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration”. New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that an Australian citizen had been arrested in connection with New Zealand’s mosque shootings.
“It does not get more serious than this,” said Police Commissioner Mike Bush. He did not provide any details regarding the situation but warned against assuming that the danger had passed.
“We are not aware of other people, but we cannot assume there are not others at large,” he told the press.
The South Island city was placed in lockdown as police hunted for an “active shooter”.
Unconfirmed reports said the shooter was wearing military-style clothing. According to the BBC, an unverified video has emerged on social media that was reportedly recorded by the attacker during the shooting.