Mosque shootings death toll rises to 50 as authorities begin release of bodies

Fifty people are now known to have been killed in the New Zealand mosque shootings as the bodies of victims begin to be returned to their families.

An Australian man remains the only person to have been charged in connection with the attacks at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday.

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Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder, making a sign to the camera during 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. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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.
People gather at a vigil to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, at Washington Square Park in Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S. March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi
Nayab Khan, 22, cries at a vigil to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Makela
People taking part in a vigil at the New Zealand War Memorial on Hyde Park Corner following the mosque attacks in Christchurch.
Aahil Ashraf, four, from Birmingham, with his dad Mohamed Ashraf, holds a yellow flower given to him by Christian James Lynch, from Riverside Church, who is handing out flowers to Muslims as they leave Birmingham Central Mosque after the attack on the Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
An armed police officer stands guard next to flowers offered by a resident outside Linwood mosque after Friday's gunmen attacks, in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A women places flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019, where one of the mass shootings occurred yesterday. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police officers search the area near the Masjid Al Noor mosque, site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
KILBIRNIE, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: A mourner draws on the pavement outside a Mosque in Kilbirnie, Wellington on March 16, 2019 in Kilbirnie, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 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. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
KILBIRNIE, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: Mourners gather at a Mosque in Kilbirnie, Wellington on March 16, 2019 in Kilbirnie, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 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. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
KILBIRNIE, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: Flowers are placed outside a Mosque in Kilbirnie, Wellington on March 16, 2019 in Kilbirnie, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 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. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: Locals lay flowers in tribute to those killed and injured at Deans Avenue near the Al Noor Mosque on March 16, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 41 of the victims were killed at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue and seven died at the Linwood Mosque. Another victim died later in Christchurch hospital. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
KILBIRNIE, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: An armed police officer stands guard at the Kilbirnie Mosque, Wellington on March 16, 2019 in Kilbirnie, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 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. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn carries a wreath as he arrives at the New Zealand High Commission in Haymarket, London, in the aftermath of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.
Flowers are seen outside of New Zealand house to honour victims of shooting in New Zealand, in London, Britain March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Jacobs
People take part in a demonstration to protest against the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, following Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey March 15, 2019. The banners read that: "Say No to Global Terror!". REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police and ambulance staff help a wounded man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Prime Minister Jacinda Aredrn speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on March 15, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. One person is in custody and police are searching for another gunmen following several shootings at mosques in Christchurch. Police have not confirmed the number of casualties or fatalities. All schools and businesses are in lock down as police continue to search for other gunmen. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-mast on a Parliament building in Wellington on March 15, 2019, after a shooting incident in Christchurch. - Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead on March 15, with one gunman -- identified as an Australian extremist -- apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Personas observan del otro lado de la calle frente a una mezquita en Christchurch, Nueva Zelanda, el viernes 15 de marzo de 2019. Un testigo asegura que varias personas fueron asesinadas dentro de la mezquita. (AP Foto/Mark Baker)
Police attempt to clear people from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said. Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Ambulances parked outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said. Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said. Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Policías armados patrullan fuera de una mezquita en el centro de Christchurch, Nueva Zelanda el viernes 15 de marzo de 2019. Un testigo asegura que varias personas fueron asesinadas en un tiroteo dentro de la mezquita en la ciudad neozelandesa de Christchurch. (AP Foto/Mark Baker)
Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A man rests on the ground as he speaks on his mobile phone across the road from mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says a number of people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch; police urge people to stay indoors. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A police officer is seen after reports that several shots had been fired at a mosque, in central Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019, in this still image taken from video. TVNZ/via REUTERS TV ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. NEW ZEALAND OUT. AUSTRALIA OUT. Digital: NO USE NEW ZEALAND INTERNET SITES / ANY INTERNET SITE OF ANY NEW ZEALAND OR AUSTRALIA BASED MEDIA ORGANISATIONS OR MOBILE PLATFORMS . For Reuters customers only.
An image grab from TV New Zealand taken on March 15, 2019 shows a victim arriving at a hospital following the mosque shooting in Christchurch. - At least one gunman who targeted crowded mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch killed a number of people, police said, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern describing the shooting as 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'. (Photo by TV New Zealand / TV New Zealand / AFP) / New Zealand OUT / XGTY----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / TV New Zealand / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS- NO ARCHIVE (Photo credit should read TV NEW ZEALAND/AFP/Getty Images)
In this hand out picture taken by by Pete Marsden a man makes a phone call next to car with shattered windows near the mosque after a firing incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. - A gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque during afternoon prayers, causing multiple fatalities. (Photo by Pete MARSDEN / AFP) / XGTY----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / PETE MARSDEN / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS- NO ARCHIVE (Photo credit should read PETE MARSDEN/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Members of the public react in front of the Masjd Al Noor Mosque as they fear for their relatives on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. One person is in custody and police are searching for other gunmen after a man entered Al Noor Mosque near Hagley Park with automatic rifles and opened fire. Armed police are at second mosque in suburb of Linwood. The number of casualties and fatalities has yet to be confirmed. Streets near the mosques have been evacuated, and schools and businesses around the city are now in lock down . (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police escort witnesses away from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
This picture released by Radio New Zealand shows ambulances rushing towards the mosque after a firing incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. - A gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque during afternoon prayers, causing multiple fatalities. (Photo by - / RADIO NEW ZEALAND / AFP) / New Zealand OUT / XGTY----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO /RADIO NEW ZEALAND / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS- NO ARCHIVE (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture released by Radio New Zealand shows a police officer cordoning a street near the mosque after a firing incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. - A gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque during afternoon prayers, causing multiple fatalities. (Photo by - / RADIO NEW ZEALAND / AFP) / New Zealand OUT / XGTY----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO /RADIO NEW ZEALAND / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS- NO ARCHIVE (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
An image grab from TV New Zealand taken on March 15, 2019 shows armed New Zealand special forces arriving outside the mosque following a shooting in Christchurch. - At least one gunman who targeted crowded mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch killed a number of people, police said, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern describing the shooting as 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'. (Photo by Laurent FIEVET / TV New Zealand / AFP) / New Zealand OUT / XGTY----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / TV New Zealand / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS- NO ARCHIVE (Photo credit should read LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Manurewa on March 15, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. Four people are in custody following shootings at two mosques in Christchurch this afternoon, and the number of fatalities has yet to be confirmed. New Zealanders have been urged to not attend evening prayers today following the attacks. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Four people are in custody after what PM Jacinda Ardern called one of the country's darkest days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Police officers cordon off the area as they take security measures around the shooting site after gunmen attacked the two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least 40 people were reportedly killed in twin terror attacks targeting mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, an official said on Friday. Witnesses claim the Al Noor Mosque was targeted by armed assailants and there were up to 200 people inside for Friday Prayers. (Photo by Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Police officers guard the area close to the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. - Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 40 dead on March 15, with one gunman identified as an Australian extremist -- apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city. (Photo by Tessa BURROWS / AFP) (Photo credit should read TESSA BURROWS/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: An ambulance carries wounded person to the hospital after gunmen attacked the two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least nine people were reportedly killed in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, local media reported Friday. (Photo by Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: A helicopter is seen as security measures are taken after gunmen attacked the two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least nine people were reportedly killed in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, local media reported Friday. (Photo by Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 16: Locals lay flowers in tribute to those killed and injured at Deans Avenue near the Al Noor Mosque on March 16, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. 41 of the victims were killed at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue and seven died at the Linwood Mosque. Another victim died later in Christchurch hospital. Three people are in custody over the mass shootings. One man has been charged with murder. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
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Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder and was remanded until April 5. Police said further charges would follow.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said he would not be ruling out the possibility of further suspects "until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved".

Two people arrested after the attacks were not believed to have been involved, police said, with one released and another charged with a separate offence.

Another person was taken into custody "due to evidence collected during the investigation" but there was "no information to suggest" they were linked to the attacks, police added.

On Sunday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the process of returning the bodies of those killed to their families would begin that evening.

According to Islamic law, bodies should be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs and consoles a woman as she visited Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs and consoles a woman as she visited Kilbirnie Mosque to lay flowers (TVNZ via AP)

"It's likely to be a small number to begin with," said Ms Ardern.

"It's the expectation that all bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday."

A 50th body was discovered at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Sunday morning, with victims believed to range in age from children to the elderly.

Thirty-four people remain in hospital with injuries, 12 of them in intensive care.

A four-year-old girl taken to Starship Hospital in Auckland remains in a critical condition.

Tarrant appeared to have live-streamed the terror attack and outlined his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto posted online.

Ms Ardern said her office was one of more than 30 recipients of an emailed copy of the manifesto just nine minutes before guns were fired.

"It did not include location. It did not include specific details," she said.

"Within two minutes of receipt it was conveyed directly to parliamentary security.

"Had it provided details that could have been acted on immediately it would have been, but unfortunately there were no such details in the email."

Social media giants were criticised in the wake of the attack for not doing more to stop such content being posted on their platforms.

On Sunday, Facebook said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack worldwide in the 24 hours after the shootings, 1.2 million of which were blocked at upload.

Mia Garlick, of Facebook New Zealand, said: "We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people.

"Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we're also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content."

Mr Bush said the gunman had obtained a legitimate firearms licence in 2017 in New Zealand, adding that it was "quite obvious" he had "modified a category A firearm".

Ms Arden has vowed to change the country's gun laws in the wake of the shooting spree.

Of those killed in the massacre, 42 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.

People were killed at two mosques in Christchurch
People were killed at two mosques in Christchurch (PA Graphics)

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.

Officers will stand guard outside all mosques across the New Zealand that choose to open their doors, while police have promised an increased presence across the country as people return to work and school on Monday.

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.

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