Christchurch shootings: Attacker had gun licence

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The main suspect in the mosque shooting that killed 49 people in New Zealand on Friday had five guns and a gun licence, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

“Our gun laws will change”. she told a news conference, a day after the shootings in Christchurch,

Ms Ardern said the main suspect was an Australian who is due in court on Saturday. Two other people are in custody.

The identities of the dead have not been released.

A total of 48 people were wounded in the shootings.

Bangladesh, India and Indonesia all say some of their citizens were killed in the shooting and others are unaccounted for.

“The offender was in possession of a gun licence. I’m advised that this was acquired in November of 2017,” Ms Ardern said. “I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change.”

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On Saturday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel expressed “revulsion” at this “act of terrorism” and solidarity with the victims.

“We have welcomed new people into our city. They are our friends, they are our neighbours,” she told reporters. “We want to come together to support them.”

Security remains tight across Christchurch. All mosques in New Zealand have been closed.

How events unfolded

The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch during Friday prayers at 13:40 (00:40 GMT).

A gunman drove to the front door, entered and fired on worshippers for about five minutes.

The gunman, who live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera, said he was a 28-year-old Australian called Brenton Tarrant. The footage showed him shooting at men, women and children.

A survivor told the New Zealand Herald newspaper how he escaped through a window.

Moroccan-born Nour Tavis said he was in the front row when the shooting started.

“People were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall,” he said. He saw someone smash a window. “I followed… it was the safest place to get out.”

The wife of one of his friends was killed, he said.

“When she heard the noise, she wanted to go and make sure her husband was safe,” he said. “She got the bullet, her husband got away.”

The gunman is then said to have driven about 5km (three miles) to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood where the second shooting occurred.

One witness described how one of the worshippers had managed to disarm the man, who ran to a waiting car outside.

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It is not clear where the arrests were made.

The visiting Bangladesh national cricket team had a narrow escape: they were on their way to pray at Al Noor mosque.

Police say they recovered firearms from both mosques, and explosive devices were found in a car belonging to one of the suspects.

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According to the latest census figures, Muslims make up about 1.1% of New Zealand’s population of 4.25 million.

Numbers rose sharply as New Zealand took in refugees from various war-torn countries since the 1990s.

The main suspect

Social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.

The man says he began planning an attack after visiting Europe in 2017 and being angered by events there.

The document is called “The Great Replacement” – a phrase that originated in France and has become a rallying cry for European anti-immigration extremists.

Although New Zealand police said they had charged a man in his late 20s with murder, they did not identify him.

Global reaction

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Ardern told reporters.

In a tweet, she said: “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.”

US President Donald Trump offered his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand. “The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” he wrote.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand”.

The Queen said she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences”.

Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt solidarity” and was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence”, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she mourned “with New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques”.

And French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “odious attack” and said France stood “against any form of extremism”.


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