The main suspect in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques was charged with one count of murder a day after an attack that killed 49 people and wounded dozens, prompting the Prime Minister to vow reform of the country's gun laws. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen, appeared in a Christchurch District Court on Saturday and was remanded without a plea until his next scheduled appearance in the South Island city's High Court on April 5. Handcuffed and wearing a white prison suit, Tarrant did not speak. His court-appointed lawyer made no application for bail or name suppression. He was likely to face further charges, police said.
The attack, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled as terrorism, was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country raised its security threat level to the highest. Tarrant has been identified as a suspected white supremacist, based on his social media activity. Footage of the attack on one of the mosques was broadcast live on Facebook, and a “manifesto” denouncing immigrants as “invaders” was also posted online via links to related social media accounts. The video footage showed a man driving to the mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside. Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay on the floor, the video showed. Reuters was unable to confirm the footage's authenticity and police urged people not to view or share it.
Police said the alleged shooter was arrested in a car, which was carrying improvised explosive devices, 36 minutes after they were first called. It was still unclear whether any other shooters were involved in the attacks. Two other people were in custody and police said they were working to understand their involvement. Armed police were deployed at several locations in all cities, unusual in a country that has had low levels of gun violence.