Death toll in New Zealand mosque attacks rises to 50: police
New Zealand police say the number of people killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks has risen from 49 to 50.
Commissioner Mike Bush said at a press conference that a 50th victim was identified as bodies were being removed from the two mosques targeted in Friday’s terrorist attack.
He said that an unofficial list of the names of the victims has been shared with their families, but police are unable to identify the victims formally at this point.
“That list was compiled as a result of work done with victims and with senior religious leaders and was done to give some certainty to victims’ families,” he said.
The number of people who suffered injuries in the attacks is now at 50, Bush said, up from the previous total of 42.
Thirty-four people are being treated in hospital, with 12 in critical condition. A four-year-old child is among those in critical.
Police have said a complex investigation is underway into the two shootings, which have prompted an outpouring of grief and anger in New Zealand and around the world.
Bush said additional officers have been deployed throughout the country, including at mosques, as police remain on alert.
WATCH: World reacts to Christchurch terror attack at two mosques
Meanwhile, relatives of those killed are awaiting authorities to release the remains of their loved ones in order for them to be buried.
Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours. But relatives are unsure of when the burials can happen.
WATCH: The people of Christchurch, New Zealand, are trying to deal with the horror that has shrouded the peaceful community as they wonder how their quiet city became the target of terror. Jennifer Johnson reports.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday local time that the bodies were beginning to be returned to families in the evening, it would likely be a small number to begin with and all bodies are expected to be returned by Wednesday.
Bush said police were working with pathologists and coroners to release the bodies as soon as possible.
“We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen,” he said. “But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible.”
The alleged gunman wrote a manifesto that contained hatred toward Muslims and immigrants, police have confirmed.
A video of the massacre was livestreamed online.
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, has been arrested and charged with murder. He is expected to face additional charges.
A woman arrested in connection with the investigation has been released without charge, Bush said. Another person is facing unrelated firearms charges, and an 18-year-old will appear in court on a “tangential” matter.
“At this point we do not believe that they were involved in these attacks,” Bush said.
WATCH: Alleged Christchurch mass killer Brendon Tarrant appeared in court Saturday, as investigators comb through the two mosques where he’s alleged two of gunned down dozens of Muslims taking part in Friday prayers.
-With files from the Associated Press
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