New Zealand mosque massacre death toll rises to 50
The death toll from the New Zealand mosque attacks has risen to 50, authorities said.
A further 50 people suffered injuries in the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch during midday prayers on Friday, New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said.
Thirty six victims remain in Christchurch Hospital, with two of them fighting for their lives.
At a press conference on Sunday morning New Zealand time, Mr Bush said: “It is with sadness that I advise that the number of people who have died in this awful event has now risen to 50.
“As of last night we were able to take all of the victims from both of those scenes and in doing so we have located a further victim.”
Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, appeared in court on Saturday charged with one count of murder and was remanded until April 5. Police said further charges will follow.
He appeared to have live-streamed the terror attack and outlined his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto posted online.
Mr Bush also said two people arrested around the same time as the suspect are not believed to be involved in the attacks, with one released and another charged with firearms offences.
Another person arrested who was in possession of a firearm intended to help police and was released a short time later.
Mr Bush said the shooter obtained a legitimate firearms licence in 2017 in New Zealand, adding that it was “quite obvious” the gunman had “modified a category A firearm”.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has vowed to change the country’s gun laws in the wake of the shooting spree that stunned the world.
Ms Arden said the “primary perpetrator” in the shootings had five guns and held a gun licence, adding: “I can tell you one thing right now – our gun laws will change.”
A four-year-old girl was reported to be among those seriously injured.
She was named as Elin by her uncle Sabri Daraghmeh, who told reporters in a phone call from Jordan on Saturday that she was “in the danger phase”.
Her father Waseem, 33, the brother of Mr Daraghmeh, is said to be in a stable condition.
The Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin is reported to have moved to New Zealand five years ago and described it as “the safest place one could ever live in”.
Mr Bush said of the injury toll: “I also want to say that the number of injured is also 50. Thirty six of those remain in Christchurch hospital where they are being treated with the utmost care and professionalism by medical staff.
“Two do remain critical and we also have one child being well looked after at Starship Hospital” in Auckland.
The majority of the patients are male aged 30 to 40, while two of them are boys aged two and 13, said Greg Robertson, chief of surgery at Christchurch Hospital.
The two-year-old boy was reported to be in stable condition, as was the 13-year-old.
“Twelve operating theatres worked through the night,” said Mr Robertson.
“Many of those injured will need multiple returns to surgery.”
Of those killed in the massacre, 41 died at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue in central Christchurch, seven were killed at the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque, and one person died at Christchurch Hospital.
It was not disclosed where the 50th victim was located.
In the video live-streamed by Tarrant, a man inside a mosque appears to say: “Welcome brother”, as a gunman approaches.
A number of improvised explosive devices found on a vehicle after the shootings were defused by police.
Mr Bush, who had earlier called the attack a “very well-planned event”, said the suspect was not known to police either in New Zealand or Australia.
He said victims’ families would be supported by “a very large contingent of ethnic liaison officers working with religious leaders and other religious support people”.
He added: “There is so much outpouring of grief … and we have to support those people and meet their needs.”
Police urged all mosques across New Zealand to stay closed over the weekend for security reasons.
British security sources said there were no apparent UK links to the attack.
A 24-year-old man from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was arrested on Saturday after posting comments online supporting the slaughter, Greater Manchester Police said.