New Zealand PM says Christchurch shooting suspect planned to continue his attack
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the suspect in the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch planned to continue his attack, she said Friday.
“There were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with this attack,” she told a news conference.
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He was arrested 36 minutes after the first call to police, Ardern added.
The prime minister went on to say that the suspect, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, will appear in court on April 5.
Ardern said this one day after shootings that killed 49 people and injured 20 others, and that had her pledging to strengthen firearms laws in the wake of the massacre.
“Our gun laws will change,” she said. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017, now is the time for change.”
She said five guns were used by the primary perpetrator of Friday’s attack, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns. The shooter was in possession of a gun licence obtained in November 2017.
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Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday morning local time. He has been charged with murder, though police said they expect further charges to be laid.
Ardern said that investigators are working to determine whether two others who were taken into custody in relation to the massacre were directly involved.
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None of the three individuals arrested were on any watchlists in New Zealand or Australia, nor did they have any history of criminal activity, Ardern said.
Officers searched a property in Dunedin, New Zealand, that is believed to be connected to the attack.
The property on Somerville Street is “a location of interest in relation to the serious firearms incident in Christchurch,” police wrote on Twitter at 10:40 p.m. local time, about nine hours after the deadly shooting.
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The mass shootings at two mosques took place Friday afternoon local time. Police also defused explosive devices during their investigation.
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A video of one of the shootings was live streamed on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Tarrant.
New Zealand Police advised the public Saturday that sharing the video is an offence.
“We would also like to remind the public that it is an offence to distribute an objectionable publication and that is punishable by imprisonment,” the police wrote on Facebook.
Of the 42 people injured, police said that two are in critical condition and one, a four-year-old child, was being transported to a hospital in Auckland.
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Funeral for victims were planned for Saturday.
Most victims were refugees or migrants who had come from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Malaysia, Turkey, India and Indonesia.
Muslims make up approximately one per cent of the population in New Zealand.
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Ardern previously called the event a well-planned “terrorist attack,” and the country’s threat level was raised from low to high. That’s the second-highest security threat level for the country.
She said authorities had no reason to believe there were more suspects, but “we are not assuming that at this stage.”
A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings said in a manifesto that espoused hate against Muslims and immigrants that he was a 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack.
The mayor of Christchurch said she believes her community was targeted because “we are a safe city and a safe country.”
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Lianne Dalziel told reporters flags are flying at half mast until further notice as an expression of support for the Muslim community, and several events are cancelled as the city grapples with the tragedy.
Police have said they will be will be providing a “visible police presence” at community events this weekend for safety and reassurance.
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—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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