World

Suspected white supremacist charged with murder after New Zealand mosque shootings

Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday 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 labeled 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 identified 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 inside. 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.

“The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch on Saturday.

The visiting Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers at one of the mosques when the shooting started but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.

Two other people were in custody and police said they were seeking to understand whether they were involved in any way.

None of those arrested had a criminal history or were on watchlists in New Zealand or Australia.

Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who allegedly used five weapons, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which had been modified.

“I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” Ardern told reporters, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

New Zealand has in the past tried to tighten firearm laws, but a strong gun lobby and culture of hunting has stymied such efforts. There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, which has a population of only five million, but the country has had low levels of gun violence.

Police Association President Chris Cahill the semi-automatic weapons used in the mosque shootings were banned in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down.

“There is no place in the upcoming debate for the radical gun lobby which has made its presence felt in previous attempts to make our country safer,” Cahill said in a statement.

“We have seen what happens in the United States when gun radicals are involved. Nothing. That is not good enough for New Zealand.”

reuters.com

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *