A suspect in the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques on Friday appeared in court on Saturday and was charged with murder.
He was identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, reported CNN. Tarrant, charged with one count of murder, will remain in custody until his next court appearance on April 5.
There will likely be additional charges, reported CBC News, but the police have yet to release details of what they may be.
At least 49 people were killed in Friday’s attack. The suspect appeared to be a white supremacist motivated by U.S.-based extremism, having posted a manifesto online declaring his hatred for Muslims and idolizing U.S. extremist movements. Christchurch Hospital continued to care for 36 wounded in the shootings, including 11 critically injured. Patients ranged in age from 2 years old to nearly 70, according to David Meates, chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board.
The first victim identified was Daoud Nabi, a 71-year-old grandfather who died trying to save someone else from a bullet, according to his son. At a news conference on Saturday afternoon local time, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities would release more information on the victims soon.
Of the four people police apprehended on Friday, one was released ― an innocent bystander who “was just trying to get their kids home,” Bush said. Another two individuals are still in custody as the police continue to determine if they were involved in any way.
Pool via Getty Images Brenton Tarrant, charged in relation to the Christchurch massacre, is escorted in the courtroom Saturday in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Tarrant was not known to the authorities, Bush said, and had no previous convictions.
Police were able to neutralize two devices: an improvised explosive device at one of the mosques and another device found in the suspect’s vehicle, which was also rendered safe.
New Zealand law enforcement is working with Australian intelligence and police in the “wide-reaching” investigation, the commissioner said.
When asked what he thought of the prime minister suggesting there should be a change in New Zealand’s gun laws, the police commissioner said he was “happy to hear” that.
In response to the attacks, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the massacre as a “terrorist attack” at a news conference, saying: “These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.”
Meates said at a news conference at the Christchurch hospital that it’s “hard to fathom the enormity of this act of terrorism. What happened is abhorrent. It’s a lot to take in, and talking to friends and family can help. People’s lives have been changed forever. We as a health system are here to support everyone in our community.”
President Donald Trump, who has a record of Islamophobic rhetoric, online behavior and policies, tweeted out his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand. And at a news conference later on Friday, according to a pool report, one reporter asked the president if he saw a rise in white nationalism around the world.
“I don’t really,” Trump responded. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
Meanwhile, people in cities around the world showed up at vigils to honor the victims of the Islamophobic attack.
“We mourn the heartbreaking killings of men, women and children gathered for prayer in their houses of worship and urge leaders in our nation and worldwide to speak out forcefully against the growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate that appears to have motivated these white supremacist terrorists,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This article has been updated with information on the number of people hospitalized.
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