What we know about the suspects in New Zealand terror attacks
A self-proclaimed white nationalist behind at least one of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday that killed 49 people broadcast part of the attack on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant.
Police have not named the gunman but confirmed a 28-year-old man in custody has been charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning. Two others remain in custody and another person, arrested earlier Friday, was not related to the shootings, police said.
Tarrant appeared in court, showing no emotion on Saturday, local time. The judge read him a single murder charge, and added that it was “reasonable to assume” there would be more charges.
New Zealand Police confirmed that on Twitter.
WATCH: Timeline of New Zealand mosque shootings
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the man who appeared in court was “not on any watch lists here or in Australia.”
“This individual has travelled around the world with sporadic periods of times spent in New Zealand,” Ardern said during a news conference in Wellington early Saturday morning local time. “This individual was not on the radar of Australian intelligence agencies or New Zealand agencies.
WATCH: 5-year-old child among injured following Christchurch mosque shootings
Ardern said the alleged gunman was able to obtain a gun licence in November 2017 and the purchase of weapons began in December 2017.
“There were five guns used by the primary perpetrator. There were two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns. The offender was in possession of a gun license. I’m advised this was acquired in November of 2017. A lever action firearm was also found,” Ardern said.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change.”
WATCH: Christchurch mayor left ‘shocked’ by attack
Police have confirmed the alleged gunman left behind a “manifesto” before the shooting, which railed against Muslims and espoused far-right and anti-immigrant ideology.
The 74-page document is littered with conspiracy theories about “white genocide” and references a conflict between people of European descent and Muslims. He often references the Crusades, which is a common theme among far-right extremists.
The writer of the document describes himself as 28 years old, born in Australia to a “working-class, low-income family,” and said he had a “regular childhood.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of those arrested was an Australian-born citizen.
The alleged gunman claimed to be following other infamous right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, and Anders Breivik, a Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people.
One of Australia’s public broadcasters reported the man worked as a personal trainer at a gym in the city of Grafton after finishing school in 2009 until 2011, when he left to travel overseas.
A woman told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that she was his colleague when he worked as a personal trainer in Grafton. His alleged actions shocked her.
“I can’t … believe that somebody I’ve probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme,” Tracey Gray said.
A now-deleted Twitter account with the handle @brentontarrant showed photos of weapons and equipment with the names of past extremists and mass shooters written in white.
One of the names is Alexandre Bissonnette, the man who killed six people in an attack on a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
New Zealand police said 41 people were killed at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Road and that seven more were fatally shot at another mosque in Linwood, a suburb of Christchurch.
One person died in hospital.
Prime Minister Ardern called it one of the country’s “darkest days.”
“Whilst I cannot give any confirmation at this stage around fatalities and casualties, what I can say is that it is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Ardern said. “Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
The Associated Press reported that police deactivated an improvised explosive device (IED), and were working to disarm a second, that had been attached to a vehicle used by the suspects.
WATCH: NZ prime minister on Christchurch terror attack
Two homes were also evacuated around a “location of interest,” in Dunedin, about 350 kilometres south of Christchurch.
Health officials said at least 48 people, including young children and adults, were being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital.
Roughly 200 family members were at the hospital awaiting news about loved ones, according to the Associated Press.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a brief statement on Twitter condemning the fatal shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.
“Attacking people during prayers is absolutely appalling,” Trudeau said.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the suspect who carried out the attack targeted New Zealand for its reputation for being a safe space.
“I think the reason that we have been targeted — and this was, as I understand it, a deliberate decision to target our city and our country — was because we are a safe city and a safe country,” Dalziel said at a news conference.
Dalziel said the individual came to New Zealand with “hate in his heart.”
“This sort of extremism is not something that we’ve seen here. But he is not from here,” she said. “He came here with hate in his heart and intention to kill in his mind. So he did not develop his hatred here. He came here to perform this act of terrorism.”
In his rambling manifesto, written as a Q&A, the alleged gunman describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and a fascist and that China most represented his political and social values.
He said he viewed Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity.”
“Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?” the document said. “As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
He also singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as someone who had the greatest influence over him.
“Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness,” the document said. “Though I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for are too much, even for my tastes.”
Owens responded on Twitter threatening to sue any media that portrayed her as the inspiration for the attack.
The alleged gunman also claimed he was motivated to violence following a terror attack in Sweden in 2017 when a man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five.
He pointed to the death of an 11-year-old girl in the attack as what enraged him most.
According to the document, he began planning for the shooting three months ago and chose to target Christchurch. And while he claimed not to be a member of any organization he said he donated to many nationalist groups.
In the video he livestreamed of the shooting, the number 14 was seen on a rifle — that could be a reference to the “14 Words.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the “14 words” are a white supremacist slogan attributed in part to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Before carrying out the shooting, he could be heard saying, “let’s get this party started” as he picked up a gun and stormed into a mosque, opening fire on people gathered at a place of worship.
After the shooting stopped, he climbed back into his car and drove away.
*With files from Eric Stober and the Associated Press
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