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 today.
Australian-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant appeared in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison shirt, sitting impassively as the judge read a single murder charge against him. A raft of further charges are expected.
The former fitness instructor and self-professed fascist occasionally turned to look at media present in court during the brief hearing that was held behind closed doors for security reasons.
He did not request bail and was taken into custody until his next court appearance scheduled for April 5.
Forty-two people are still being treated in hospital for injuries, including a four year old child, after an attack thought to be the deadliest directed against Muslims in the West in modern times.
Outside the court, guarded by heavily armed police in body armour, the sons of 71-year-old Afghan man Daoud Nabi demanded justice.
“It’s outrageous, the feeling is outrageous,” he said. “It’s beyond imagination.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today the victims were from across the Muslim world, with Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia among the countries rendering consular assistance.
One Saudi citizen was killed and another wounded, according to Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television news channel.
At least two Jordanians were among the dead, according to that country’s foreign minister, while Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Faisal said five citizens of his country were missing.
Ardern described the spree killing as a terrorist attack and said the shooter who was not on any watchlist and did not have a criminal record had legally purchased the two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and lever-action gun he used.
“The offender was in possession of a gun licence” obtained in November 2017, and he started purchasing the weapons the following month, she said.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now our gun laws will change,” she vowed.
The suspect documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy filled far-right “manifesto”.
He live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away in the main Christchurch mosque.
Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown. A third person who was earlier arrested was said to be a member of the public with a firearm who was trying to help.
Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, while police raided a home in Dunedin, where Ardern said the suspect was based.