New Zealand Shooting Live Updates: Christchurch Mosque Attacks Leave 49 Dead, Australian Suspect Charged
• Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, in a terrorist attack that appeared to have been carried out by a white nationalist extremist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the attacks on Facebook.
• A 28-year-old man from Australia was charged with murder and appeared Saturday morning in a Christchurch courtroom. Court papers identified him as Brenton Harrison Tarrant. The New Zealand police said he would face additional charges. A second man, 18, was charged with “intent to excite hostility or ill-will.”
• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said many of the people who died in the attacks were the breadwinners in their families, and that the government would help those who had been left without income.
• President Trump, who was cited in the manifesto as a source of inspiration, told reporters he did not see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world and attributed such attacks to “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” He also said he had not seen the manifesto.
Two mosques are attacked
The attacker targeted the Al Noor Mosque in the center of the city and Linwood Mosque, about three miles away.
The country’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, said at a Friday evening news conference that 41 people had been killed at Al Noor Mosque and seven at Linwood Mosque, and that another victim had died at Christchurch Hospital.
David Meates, the chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board, said that 48 people, including young children, were treated for injuries at the hospital. Mr. Bush said Saturday morning that two of the victims were in critical condition.
The police said Friday that three men and one woman had been taken into custody, but Mr. Bush lowered the total number to three on Saturday morning, indicating that someone had been released.
Ms. Ardern said none of those detained had been on security watch lists.
Mr. Bush had earlier urged people not to go to mosques anywhere in New Zealand on Friday. He also urged mosques nationally to “close your doors until you hear from us again.”
Handcuffed suspect appears in court
In a Christchurch courtroom hearing closed to the public for security reasons, police officers in bulletproof vests brought in the suspect, Brenton Harrison Tarrant. The police said he had been charged with one count of murder but would face additional charges. Mr. Tarrant, 28, short with thinning brown hair, handcuffed and wearing white prison clothing, looked around the courtroom but said nothing as District Court Judge Paul Kellar ordered him held for a further hearing on April 5.
Regional officials have said Mr. Tarrant is an Australian citizen. Court papers listed his New Zealand address as Dunedin City, which is about 280 miles south of Christchurch.
Richard Peters, his court-appointed lawyer, said Mr. Tarrant had indicated he might represent himself in the prosecution. Asked how Mr. Tarrant had reacted to what he is facing, Mr. Peters said, “He seemed to be quite aware of where he is and what he’s doing.”
At the same time the charging document for Mr. Tarrant was handed out to reporters, a second court filing was distributed that said Daniel John Burrough, 18, of Christchurch, had been charged with “intent to excite hostility or ill-will.” Court officials would not elaborate on how the two cases were related.
In addition to Mr. Tarrant, three other people were arrested in connection with the attacks, although one was apparently released. Few details have been offered about them.
Video shows part of the shooting
A 17-minute video posted to Facebook shows part of the attack.
The clip, which appeared to have been taken from a helmet camera worn by the gunman, begins behind the wheel of a car. A man, whose face can occasionally be seen in the rearview mirror, drives through the streets of Christchurch before pulling up in front of Al Noor Mosque, beside the sprawling Hagley Park.
[Read more here about the video, manifesto and social media posts.]
He approaches the mosque on foot, his weapon visible, and begins shooting at people at the entrance. What follows is a harrowing nearly two minutes of his firing on worshipers.
At one point the gunman exits the mosque and fires in both directions down the sidewalk before returning to his car for another gun — which, like the others, was inscribed with numbers, symbols or messages. When he re-enters the mosque, he shoots several bodies at close range.
After another few minutes, he returns to his vehicle and drives away.
“There wasn’t even time to aim, there was so many targets,” he says at one point, as the sirens of an emergency response vehicle blare in the background.
A white nationalist manifesto
Before the shooting, the gunman posted links to a white nationalist manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum known for extremist right-wing discussions. The 8chan post included a link to the gunman’s Facebook page, where he said he would also broadcast live video of the attack.
The Twitter posts showed weapons covered in the names of past military generals and men who have recently carried out mass shootings.
In his manifesto, he identified himself as a 28-year-old man born in Australia, and listed his white nationalist heroes.
Writing that he had purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States over the Second Amendment’s provision on the right to bear arms, he also declared himself a fascist. “For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist,” he wrote.
Ardern: Many victims were breadwinners
Many of the people who died in the attacks were the breadwinners in their family, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Saturday.
The victims were “predominantly from the ages of 20 to 60ish — and a large number of men,” Ms. Ardern told reporters at Hagley College, a local school near the hospital where relatives of the victims were gathering.
She said a government compensation system would help families of those left without income. In the meantime, mosques would continue to get extra security, she added.
“The commissioner has advised that police security will continue at mosques around New Zealand until it is determined that it is no longer a threat,” she said, referring to the country’s police commissioner, Mike Bush.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Ardern vowed changes to the country’s gun laws. She said that the attacker held a gun license obtained last November and that five guns were used in the attack, including two semi-automatic weapons.
“Our gun laws will change, now is the time,” Ms. Ardern said, though did not elaborate on what such legislation may look like. “People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.”
Trump condemns attack, says white nationalists are ‘small group of people’
President Trump, who was mentioned in the suspected assailant’s manifesto as a source of inspiration, rejected suggestions that white nationalism is a rising menace, although he suggested it might be problem in New Zealand.
“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” he told reporters in Washington in response to a question. “If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet. But it’s certainly a terrible thing.”
Asked if he had seen the manifesto, Mr. Trump said: “I did not see it, but I think it’s a horrible event, it’s a horrible thing. I saw it early in the morning when I looked at what was happening, and we spoke, as you know, to the prime minister. I think it’s a horrible disgraceful thing, horrible act.”
Attacks on mosques and Muslim leaders on rise in the West
Attacks on mosques and Muslim religious leaders in the West have increased in recent years, according to data from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland. North America, Europe and Oceania saw 128 such attacks from 2010 through 2017, the latest year of available data.
Terrorist attacks on other religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, totaled 213 over the same period.
YouTube star ‘sickened’ by being cited in video
Felix Kjellberg, a polarizing YouTube celebrity known as PewDiePie, distanced himself from the attacks after the man who filmed himself shooting victims at a mosque encouraged viewers to “subscribe to PewDiePie” in a video livestream.
“I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person,” Mr. Kjellberg, a Swede, said on Twitter.
Mr. Kjellberg has courted controversy by performing anti-Semitic gestures, which he calls satirical, in his videos. He has a following of 89 million subscribers.
Scrutiny of social media postings
Over the last 18 months, tech companies have promised stronger safeguards to ensure that violent content is not distributed through their sites. But those new safeguards were not enough to stop the posting of a video and manifesto believed related to Friday’s shooting.
A 17-minute video that included graphic footage apparently of the shooting could be found on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram more than an hour after being posted. While Facebook and Twitter took down pages thought to be linked to the gunman, the posted content was spread rapidly through other accounts.
In order to evade detection, people appeared to be cropping the video or posting the text of the manifesto as an image — techniques used to evade automated systems that find and delete content.
Social media companies have heavily invested in those systems, with Facebook reporting last year that more than 99 percent of terrorism content by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda was found and removed through artificial intelligence.
A Facebook spokeswoman offered condolences to the victims and said the company was “removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware.”
YouTube said it had taken down thousands of videos related to the shooting, and asked users to help flag videos. A spokeswoman for Reddit said it was also trying to remove “any content containing links to the video stream or the manifesto.”
Still, the tech companies were sharply criticized by Senator Cory Booker, a Democratic candidate for president, who said in New Hampshire on Friday that it was “unacceptable” for the companies to give “a platform to hate.”
Stricken mosques seek help for 49 funerals
Nasreen Hanif, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, said the country’s Muslims were anxious for updates.
[For Muslims in New Zealand and abroad, the massacre has drawn outrage as a brazen act of hatred borne of anti-Muslim sentiment.]
Ms. Hanif said the two mosques in Christchurch had asked for help from the rest of New Zealand’s Muslims to arrange 49 funerals.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said that three Turkish citizens were wounded in the attack; the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to New Zealand said at least one Palestinian was killed; and the group Syrian Solidarity New Zealand said on its Facebook page that “Syrian refugees, including children, have been shot today.”
A site managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross listed dozens of people who had been recorded as missing, including people from Egypt, Syria, India, Kuwait, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.
Ilhan Omar urges solidarity
Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, urged all Muslims to attend Friday Prayers and exhorted people of all faiths to join them to repudiate the white supremacist message of the New Zealand attack.
“I know there was a call for people to not go,” she told reporters after addressing a climate rally in Washington. “But I said to people that is what the terrorists want us to do. That is a win for them, and so we must face the hate and terror with love and with compassion.”
Ms. Omar also said “everyone should join us in solidarity.”
The New Zealand police force had called for mosques in the country to close.
The congresswoman, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, has been at the center of a political tempest in the Democratic Party over remarks on Israel that critics have called anti-Semitic. She has apologized for those remarks.
Cricket team ‘saved’ by timing
Members of the Bangladesh national cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, were en route to Al Noor Mosque for Friday Prayer when the shooting began. They narrowly missed it.
Mohammad Isam, a journalist covering the team, reported for ESPN that at 1:52 p.m. he got a call from Tamim Iqbal Khan, one of the players.
“There’s shooting here, please save us,” Mr. Khan said, according to Mr. Isam. At first, he thought it was a prank.
“But he hangs up and calls again — this time, his voice starts to crack,” Mr. Isam wrote. “He says that I should call the police as there’s a shooting going on inside the mosque where they are about to enter.”
Mr. Isam ran toward the mosque and saw bloodied and dazed people fleeing. In the chaos, he managed to find several players, and they eventually reconvened at the hotel. The team manager, Khaled Mashud, told reporters that players were about 50 yards from the mosque.
“Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque,” he said.
“Entire team got saved from active shooters,” Mr. Khan wrote on Twitter. Another player, Mushfiqur Rahim, tweeted that he never wanted “to see this things happen again.”
‘My really good friend goes there’
Aman Singh, who works at a convenience store close to the Deans Avenue mosque, said he had heard the gunshots on Friday afternoon, and that shortly afterward people streamed past the shop, bloody and crying.
Mr. Singh, 26, said he knew several people who worshiped at the mosque.
“My really good friend goes there,” he said, adding that he had not been able to confirm the friend’s whereabouts on Friday afternoon.
Murders are rare in New Zealand, but guns aren’t
Murders are rare in New Zealand, and gun homicides even rarer. There were 35 murders countrywide in 2017. And since 2007, gun homicides have been in the single digits each year except 2009, when there were 11.
But there are plenty of guns.
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the country of 4.6 million people in 2017, according to the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss nonprofit.
New Zealand law allows any person aged 16 or older with an entry-level firearm license to keep any number of common rifles and shotguns, according to GunPolicy.org, a project hosted by the University of Sydney. Most guns can be purchased without being tracked by law enforcement officials.
A mass shooting in Aramoana, New Zealand, in 1990 — when a man killed 13 people, including two 6-year-olds, after a dispute with his neighbor — led directly to tightened gun laws, including restrictions on “military-style semiautomatic weapons.”