Terrorist attack in New Zealand suspects grin in court | news


The Australian suspect, who was arrested after dozens of worshipers in two mosques were shot down, appeared on Saturday in New Zealand and stared at media members with a grin on his face.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in a Christchurch District Court and was charged with murder. Until his next appearance at the Supreme Court of the South Island on April 5, he was rejected without objection.

Handcuffed, without shoes and in a white prison suit, Tarrant did not speak. His lawyer appointed lawyer did not apply for a bail or a ban on naming.

He gave an upside-down "OK" signal, a symbol used by white power groups around the world.

Andrew Thomas of Al Jazeera, who reported from Christchurch, said the suspect was watching the journalist intensely.

"He came to court, he did not say anything, he stood there and looked straight into the media in the courtroom and grinned throughout his performance," Thomas reported.

Judge Paul Kellar took pictures, but ordered that the former fitness coach's face should be blurred to uphold the rights of the fair trial.

Shooting in New Zealand: Many worshipers were killed in Christchurch mosques

Two other suspects were detained while police tried to figure out what role they played in the cold-blooded attack on New Zealand – a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry weapons.

None of the detainees had a criminal record or was on a watch list in New Zealand or Australia.

With 49 people killed in the mosque attacks, it was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history. For some victims, funerals were planned on Saturday.

According to the medical staff, 39 injured were treated in hospitals, 11 of them in critical condition, including a four-year-old girl.

Victims came from all over the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia. The dead included women and children.

Weapons laws questioned

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it a well-planned terrorist attack and said the prime suspect was a licensed gun owner who used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.

The weapons were modified so that laps could be dropped faster, she said.

"I can tell you one thing now, our gun laws will change," Ardern told reporters, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

She said the suspect intended to continue the robbery before being caught by the police.

New Zealand, with five million inhabitants, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms or about three people. But it has one of the lowest murder rates in weapons. In 2015, there were only eight murders.

Tarrant published a jumbled, 74-page social media manifesto identifying himself with his name, saying he was a white suprematist who wanted to avenge attacks in Europe committed by Muslims.

The shooter had also 17 minutes after the attack in the Al Noor mosque created a live image in which he sprayed believers with bullets, with at least 41 people died. In an attack on a second mosque in the city, several people were killed shortly afterwards. The police also defused explosives in a car.

The authorities did not say if the same person was responsible for both shootings.

Tarrant's relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, New South Wales, contacted the police after hearing of the shooting and helped with the investigation, authorities said.

Tarrant has spent little time in Australia over the past four years, with only minor traffic violations.

Search for relatives

On Saturday, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed huddled in police raids outside one of the two mosques to find out what had happened to his father and his two brothers whose cell phones went unanswered. An officer stopped him.

"We just want to know if they're dead or alive," Mohammed told the officer.

After the bloodshed on Friday, the country's threat level has been raised from low to high. The police warned Muslims against going to a mosque all over New Zealand, and the national airline canceled several flights to and from Christchurch, a city of nearly 400,000.

People give respect by placing flowers for the victims in Christchurch on Saturday [Michael Bradley/AFP]

New Zealand is generally considered to be welcome for migrants and refugees. On Saturday, people across the country talked to Muslims in their communities through social media to volunteer – offering rides to the grocery store or volunteering to walk with them when they felt insecure.

Muslims account for only one percent of New Zealand's population, as a 2013 census showed, most of which were foreign-born.

A website set up for victims had raised more than $ 684,000 in less than a day, and social media was flooded with messages of shock, compassion, and solidarity.

One widespread image was of a comic kiwi, the national bird of the country that wept. Another showed a pair of figures, one in a headscarf, hugging. "This is your home and you should be safe here," was the caption.

Analysis: Shooting attacks on two mosques in New Zealand

A city mourns

The Al Noor Mosque is located opposite a large English-style park with towering oak trees. On Saturday morning, dozens of people stood silently facing the building while the police went about their work.

With the road closed, only sounds were heard, barbecues and occasionally a car engine in the distance. Occasionally the sound of the weeping broke through.

A few hundred meters further, where the alleged shooter was driving after the attack on the first mosque, bouquets were slowly building up in Memoriam.

Many of the visitors to the scene were migrants, newcomers to the city, and a country that prides itself on its peace-loving nature.

The 32-year-old Rizwan Khan, originally from West Bengal in India, told Al Jazeera about his fortune when an appointment in the city meant he was late for his usual trip to the Al Noor mosque.

"Because I was late, I decided not to leave," Khan said. "I'm very grateful to God, I can not imagine what would have happened, one of my friends called me, with whom I usually pray in the mosque, and when I called him he just said he had been shot in his shoulder.

"I was just saved from happiness."

Other stories were just as remarkable – for the wrong reasons.

Two young mourning-stricken Muslims described how their friend's uncle visited him from India for a few weeks. He had gone home the night before the flight to the Al Noor Mosque, only to be shot in cold blood.

Rampage video

Facebook, Twitter and Google have managed to remove the shooter's video, which was available for hours on social media after the mass shootings.

In the video, the killer spends more than two minutes in the mosque to meet frightened worshipers with rifles. Then he went outside and shot at people on the sidewalk.

Childrens cries can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to fetch another weapon. He went back to the mosque, where at least two dozen people lay on the floor.

It was an emotional day for many Christchurchers on Saturday[[[[Michael Bradley /AFP]

After he went outside again and shot a woman there, he got back in his car, where a song sounds. The singer roared, "I am the God of Hellfire!" and the shooter set off, even before the police arrived.

The second attack took place in the approximately 5 km distant Linwood Mosque. Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he had heard of five shots and a believer returned the fire with a rifle or a shotgun.

The footage showed that the killer carried a shotgun and two fully-automatic assault rifles, with one extra gun attached to one of the weapons, allowing him to quickly reload. He also had more offensive weapons and explosives in the trunk of his car.

The shooter said he was not a member of an organization, acting alone and choosing New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world are not free from "mass immigration."

Bill Code contributed to this report by Christchurch


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