Christchurch attack: number of victims rises to 50, 50 injured - latest

Tributes paid across the world, as suspect appears in court

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The man suspected of killing 50 people at a mosque in Christchurch appeared in court on Saturday, as the world joined New Zealand in mourning the victims.

The National will update this space with the latest news.


Summary: New Zealand comes together as the killer appears in court

New Zealand was coming to terms with the deadliest attack on its soil on Saturday, as people gathered to lay flowers and attend candlelight vigils for the victims.

A total of 50 people were killed and more were wounded in the mass shootings at two mosques in the southern city of Christchurch on Friday. Two people remained in critical conditions, New Zealand Police said on Sunday morning.

Mike Bush, an officer with the New Zealand police, said security would remain high in mosques around the country.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled the act as terrorism.

The suspected killer, who live-streamed his massacre online, appeared in court for the first time. Dressed in a white prison shirt and shackled, Brenton Tarrant, 28, smirked at the media bench as he was informed of his charge – one count of murder – which is likely to increase.

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

Two others are in custody, but police say they do not believe they were connected to the attack. One had gone to help armed with a gun and has been charged with firearms offences.

In stark contrast to the attacker’s violent rampage, New Zealanders came together in peace on Saturday, showing the good nature they are known for.

Millions of New Zealand dollars were donated, sports games were cancelled, and communities offered lifts to food shops and comfort for Muslim neighbours.

Flowers, candles and ferns – the national symbol of New Zealand – were left outside the mosque as tributes to the victims of the shooting.

On Saturday, Ms Ardern said she would change the law around gun control, which is one of the most relaxed in the western countries.


4.11am Christchurch Hospital chief of surgery Greg Robertson says seven acute theatres are being run

Christchurch Hospital chief of surgery Greg Robertson said seven operating theatres were being run on Sunday instead of the three that are open under normal circumstances. On Friday, the day of the attack, there had been 12 operating theatres running at the same time.

Mr Robertson said the hospital’s resources were overstretched, with staff working on continuous rotations to attend the 34 people still in need of medical attention. Thirty-eight surgeries due to take place on Sunday had been cancelled to make space for those injured in the mass shooting.

Two children were still at the hospital in stable conditions. One woman was also being treated.

Mr Robertson said the shooting was not “something we had expected to see in our environment.”

He said his staff was “doing remarkably well” but was under a lot of mental stress. “People wonder if there are things they could have done better,” he said.

Christchurch has never been the theatre of a violent attack, but Mr Robertson said the earthquakes that took place in 2018 and 2011 had prepared his staff to react to an emergency scenario.


1.09am Syrian refugees are among the victims of the shooting at Christchurch

Khaled Mustafa, a refugee from Syria, was killed in the attack together with his son Hamza, 15. A younger son Zaid, 13, is recovering from a six-hour operation on his wounds at Christchurch Hospital. He does not yet know that his father and brother were killed in the attack. Among the 50 victims of the attack, many had emigrated to seek refuge from wars in their countries.


00.11am Ancient Maori war dance performed as tribute to mosque attack victims

An emotional Haka was performed outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.

The ancient Maori war dance, traditionally performed at weddings, funerals and to challenge opponents - most notably by New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team - was performed as a tribute to the victims of Friday's deadly shooting.

The group left a message that said "Kia kaha", Maori for "stay strong".


10.35pm 'We could return alive' – Bangladesh cricketers back home

The Bangladesh cricket team arrived in Dhaka on Saturday, a day after narrowly escaping the mosque shooting in Christchurch.

At least 17 members of the team drove to the Noori Masjid in a bus to join Friday prayers just after a gunman stormed the building.

"The only thing I can say that we are very lucky," skipper Mahmudllah Riyad said.

"With all of your prayers ... now we could return here alive. I cannot describe what is going inside us, what we have seen. All of us in the team could not sleep properly. The only thing that popped up in our mind was how lucky we are."


7pm Egypt confirms names of four citizens killed

Egypt said on Saturday that four of its citizens were among the worshippers killed the mass shooting.

"New Zealand authorities confirmed (to us) the deaths of four Egyptians," the migration ministry announced on its Facebook page.

It named them as Munir Suleiman, Ahmad Gamaluddin Abdel Ghani, Ashraf al-Morsi and Ashraf al-Masri.

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, has condemned the attacks as a "horrific terrorist attack".

The "rising rhetoric of hatred and xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia" were to blame, he said.


6.30pm Moving tributes from around the world:

epaselect epa07441792 The Silver Fern of New Zealand is seen projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House to pay tribute for victims of massacre in the mosques in Christchurch, in Sydney, Australia, 16 March 2019. Reports say about 50 died after terrorist attack on mosques in Chistchurch in New Zealand.  EPA/PAUL BRAVEN  AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
The Silver Fern of New Zealand is seen projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House. EPA
A man holds a play card at a vigil held at NYU Kimmel Center to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S. March 15, 2019.  REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi
A man holds a play card at a vigil held at NYU Kimmel Center, New York. Reuters
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: Crowds gather for a vigil in memory of the victims of the Christchurch mosque terror attacks, on Takapuna beach on March 16, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. 49 people are confirmed dead, with 36 injured still in hospital following shooting attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March. 41 of the victims were killed at Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue and seven died at Linwood mosque. Another victim died later in Christchurch hospital. A 28-year-old Australian-born man, Brenton Tarrant, appeared in Christchurch District Court on Saturday charged with murder. The attack is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history. (Photo by Cam McLaren/Getty Images)
Crowds gather for a vigil on Takapuna beach Auckland. Getty Images


5pm Why all Kiwis are in mourning

The National's Nyree McFarlane says she has never felt so heartbroken by something as she has by the shooting in Christchurch's mosques:

I’m mourning the dead who were pillars of their community, who ran support groups and fed the homeless; I’m angry that promising young teens and small children with so much ahead of them lost their lives; and I feel guilty that this happened in the place I call home where I thought people would be safe. To lose 49 people in a city of only around 300,000 people is a true tragedy in that community that will be so widely felt. I'm so sorry.

Read her full tribute.


3.38pm Bulgaria's chief prosecutor says killer visited

Bulgaria's chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov says the suspect arrested in the New Zealand mosque attacks travelled to the Balkan country last year.

Mr Tsatsarov said Brenton Tarrant had been in Bulgaria from November 9 to November 15.

He said Tarrant rented a car and toured more than a dozen cities, visiting historic sites.

He said Tarrant was mainly interested in battles between Christians and the Ottoman army.

The prosecutor said an investigation has been launched into whether Tarrant had contacts with local citizens.

The Interior Ministry said Bulgaria is coordinating with counterterrorism teams from various countries, including the United States.

Other reports have said that Tarrant had Balkan related iconography written on his guns and listened to propaganda anthems paying tribute to Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader convicted of genocide and war crimes.


3.30pm Fourth Jordanian killed in attack, foreign ministry says

Jordan foreign ministry issued a statement on Saturday afternoon stating a fourth Jordanian has died following the New Zealand terrorist attack after succumbing to injuries today.

As of mid-day Saturday, four Jordanians had been killed and five were injured, most listed in critical condition, according to the Jordan Foreign Ministry.  The identity of the deceased had not yet been released.


2.25pm Support for the Muslim community

People across New Zealand are reaching out to the Muslim community in wake of the attack.

Fellow countrymen offered rides to the shops and company on walks if Muslims feel unsafe walking alone.

"Love always wins over hate. Lots of love for our Muslim brothers" read a handwritten card on a wall of flowers in a historic part of the city.

Still, Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation's security alert remained at the second-highest level.


1.05pm Killer sent 'manifesto' to Prime Minister's office minutes before opening fire

The gunman sent a copy of a document he called his manifesto to the office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern minutes before he opened fire at the Christchurch mosque on Friday.

Some 70 politicians, media organisations and local news channels were sent the document on Friday, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Read more: Who is main suspect 'Brenton Tarrant'?


12.55pm Candles lit to remember victims

Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects to victims outside the hospital in Christchurch on March 16, 2019, after a shooting incident at two mosques in the city the previous day. A right-wing extremist who filmed himself rampaging through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch killing 49 worshippers appeared in court on a murder charge on March 16. / AFP / Anthony WALLACE
Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects to victims outside the hospital in Christchurch. AFP

Well-wishes lit 49 candles outside the Christchurch hospital where those wounded in Friday's attack are being treated on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, flowers, cards and candles were placed outside the mosque where the shooting occurred. Among the tributes were ferns – the national symbol of New Zealand.


12.40pm Sports cancelled as New Zealand mourns

Sporting events across New Zealand have been called off in wake of the country's largest peacetime mass killing.

While one National Rugby League match went ahead in Auckland on Saturday, a horse racing meeting, a rugby union match, a cricket test, and string of netball games were all cancelled.

"This isn't about cricket," New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said when discussing the cancellations.

"It's about something much bigger and much more important than that. It's about life, it's about respect. It's about family and community.

"Cricket and sport takes a back-seat to personal welfare."

Similar sentiments were shared about the rugby game that did go ahead on Friday night.

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: The Chiefs and Hurricanes gather together to remember the victims of the Christchurch shooting ahead of the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato on March 15, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
The Chiefs and Hurricanes gather together to remember the victims of the Christchurch shooting ahead of the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato. Getty

"Today was bigger than rugby," All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara told reporters after his game for the Wellington Hurricanes.

"Regardless of how that result went, that wouldn't have been the most important part of my day. I don't think anyone ... in this country, would say that rugby was the most important thing."


12.10pm Lockdown on hospital lifted

The lockdown on a hospital in Hawke's Bay area on Saturday was lifted after police checked out a reported security scare and reported there was no threat.

"Following extensive enquiries at the hospital and in the surrounding areas, it has been determined there is no threat to hospital staff or the public," police said in a statement.

Police in New Zealand are on high security alert following the shooting.



12.05pm Attack will not shake Imam who 'still loves' New Zealand

The imam who was leading prayers when the gunman entered the mosque and started shooting says he still loves New Zealand and he would not be shaken by the massacre.

"We still love this country," said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would "never ever touch our confidence".

Halim gave a harrowing account of the moment during Friday prayers when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing peaceful reflection with screaming, bloodshed and death.

"Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately," he said.

But, he said, New Zealand Muslims still felt at home in the south Pacific nation.

"My children live here" he said, adding, "we are happy".

He said the majority of New Zealanders "are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity", describing how strangers exchanged hugs with him on Saturday.

"They start to... give me big hug, and give me more solidarity. This is something very important."


11.30am Attack sparks action over gun control in New Zealand

Politicians in New Zealand are debating a legislative response to the attack on Friday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Saturday to break more than a decade of inaction on gun control.

“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ms Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

New Zealand's Attorney General David Parker supported Ms Ardern's statement and the New Zealand Police Association also said the law needs to be changed.

Ms Ardern confirmed that police believed that the five guns used in the attack were modified.

Under current law, anybody over the age of 16, with a license, can own any number of rifles and shotguns without registering them.

New Zealand's laws are a rare exception in westernised countries, where in general most firearms must be registered. The US and Canada are notable exceptions.


10.57am World leaders pay tribute to those killed

Leaders from across the world offered their condolences to those killed in Friday's attack and condemned the shooting.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said the world must "fight hatred" together.

"Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the hate crime that took the lives of innocent Muslims performing Friday prayers in New Zealand," he wrote on Twitter.

"We call on the world to fight hatred."


10.48am Far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos banned from Australia

A far-right provocateur, who has whipped up division in the United Kingdom and the United States, has been banned from entering Australia, where he was planning a countrywide tour.

Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been kicked off social media platforms, but still has a cult following among the far-right, responded to Friday's attack by insulting Islam.

Australian politicians had previously debated denying Mr Yiannopoulos' entry and the Immigration Minister, David Coleman, intervened to allow him to enter against the advice of the Home Affairs department


10.35am New Zealand Police ask for information


10.31am Saudi King condemns 'heinous massacre'

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud condemned the attack on the mosque, calling for the international community to combat hate speech.

“The heinous massacre that targeted worshippers in the mosque in New Zealand is a terrorist act, and it reaffirms the responsibility of the international community in combating hate speech and terrorism that is not condoned by religions or the values of tolerance,” he said.

At least two Saudi citizens were reportedly injured in Friday's attack, one of them died of his injuries.


10.28am Sydney Opera House to bear symbol of solidarity

The iconic silver fern of New Zealand will appear on the side of the Sydney Opera house on Saturday night, the premier of New South Wales said on Twitter.


10.20am Saudi man dies, increasing death toll

Mohsen Mohammed Al Harbi, one of two Saudi nationals wounded in Friday’s shooting, has died. The kingdom’s embassy in Wellington announced the news in a tweet on Saturday, saying he had passed away around dawn local time.

His death adds to the toll of 49 from Friday's shooting.


9.57am Jordanian man posts video from hospital bed

Wasseim Alsati, a Jordanian man who was shot three times, posted a video to Facebook asking for people to pray for him and his daughter.

Mr Alsati apologised for not being able to reply to all of the calls and text messages, but thanked everyone for their support.

"I am very sorry to miss your calls and text messages, I will not be able to answer any of you now," he said.

"I am just posting this video to show you I am fully okay," Mr Alsati said from his hospital bed.

It is not clear if Mr Alsati's daughter was also injured in the attack.


9.51am Christchurch shooting fund raises more than NZ$3 million (Dh7.55 million)

Fundraising efforts for the families of victims of the Christchurch shooting exceeded NZ$3 million on Saturday.

The New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups raised more than NZ$2 across two pages.

More than NZ$1.1 was raised by the New Zealand Islamic Information Centre on LaunchGood, a fundraising platform.

LaunchGood has been sharing stories of the tributes on its Instagram page, while other fundraising platforms have waived service fees.


9:9am New Zealand hospital in lockdown

New Zealand police said on Saturday that a hospital in Hawke's Bay was placed in lockdown due to a security threat in the facility.

No further details were available. Police did not comment on whether the lockdown was related to the mass shootings in Christchurch on Friday.


Smirking suspect appears in court

Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is lead into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019.   Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald/Pool via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - PICTURE PIXELATED AT SOURCE. SUSPECT FACE MUST BE PIXELATED. ONLY HIS FACE.
Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is lead into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court. Reuters

The alleged Christchurch gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant, of Dunedin, did not seek name suppression when he appeared before Judge Paul Kellar in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning on a single charge of murder.

Mr Tarrant, 28, who had tidy short cropped hair, was dressed in a white prison robe with his hands handcuffed in front of him and attached to a belt around his waist.

He eyed the media bench with something of a smirk and swayed while the judge read the single charge, noting that others would follow.

Following the hearing, Mr Tarrant was remanded in custody before a high court hearing on April 5. He did not request bail.


A recap of yesterday's events

At least 49 people were killed and 40 injured when at least one gunman launched an attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Here is a summary of what happened:

  • It was the worst mass shooting in the country's history
  • Two men and a woman are in custody
  • A car was found with two improvised explosive devices
  • The shooter appeared to live stream his crimes
  • A 74-page manifesto was posted online appearing to detail the killer's motivations and drawing on far-right in-jokes and memes