Death toll rises to 50 in terrorist attack at New Zealand mosques

09:28 AM | 15 Mar, 2019
Death toll rises to 50 in terrorist attack at New Zealand mosques
CHRISTCHURCH – The staggering death toll from the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques has climbed to 50, New Zealand police confirmed Sunday.

The body of the 50th victim was discovered at the Al Noor mosque, where most victims were killed, when officials were removing the victims' bodies on Saturday, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, told reporters on Sunday.

The victims' names were not made public. While a preliminary list of the victims has been shared with families, Bush said their bodies have not yet been released.

The number of wounded also increased to 50, he said. Of those, 34 remain hospitalized in the Christchurch Hospital and 12 are in critical condition, Greg Robertson, the hospital's chief of surgery, said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had described one gunman, who had Australian citizenship, as an "extremist, right-wing" terrorist.

What we know

  • On Friday, a gunman walked into a mosque on Deans Ave, Christchurch carrying a semi-automatic weapon and opened fire
  • Brenton Tarrant, the Australian born shooter, live streamed the attack
  • A second shooting occurred at a mosque in Linwood.
  • One gunman is believed to be responsible for both shootings, police say
  • The alleged shooter was arrested in a car, which had two bombs in it, 36 minutes after police were first called
  • 49 people have died - 41 at the Central Mosque, 7 at Linwood Mosque, 1 in Christchurch Hospital
  • 36 people remain in hospital, 11 of which are in ICU
  • The 28-year-old terrorist has been charged with murder after the shooting and is being held in custody until April
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls the terrorist attacks "NZ's darkest day," vows to change NZ's gun laws

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ms Morrison said, adding that it marked "one of New Zealand´s darkest days".

"From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned," she said.

A man in his late twenties was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday morning, police confirmed.

Two other men and one woman were detained nearby and firearms seized, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

He said police had determined that one of the people detained was not involved in the incident, and officers were working to understand if the other two were connected.

The shooting was the deadliest in the country's history.

Police also recovered suspected IEDs found attached to the attackers´ vehicles which were made safe by the military.

According to the former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Mohammed Jama, the terrorist attack took place around 01:40 pm local time on Friday, when a gunman entered a mosque in Christchurch and opened fire, he said adding that around 300 people were inside the building praying.

The police have advised the local residents to stay indoors, while local schools, main highways and public buildings have reportedly been placed on lockdown.

One gunman live-streamed footage of his rampage to Facebook, filmed with a head-mounted camera. The footage showed him firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque.

Police called on the public not to share the "extremely distressing" footage online. Facebook said it had removed the gunman's Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any copies of the footage.

New Zealand's charitable healthcare organization St John said 20 of its ambulance cars and operational vehicles had been working on the scene of a firearms incident.

"We have approximately 20 emergency ambulances and operational vehicles at the scene providing support and will continue to update you as information comes to hand," the charity said in a statement.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's police urged mosques across the country to shut their doors and warned the public to stay indoors in the wake of the terror incidents at two mosques in the city.

"We are still working to resolve this incident and we continue to urge Christchurch residents to stay inside. We ask all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting these premises until further notice," the police wrote on Twitter.

The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday. The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers and escaped the terror attack luckily.

Bangladeshi cricketer Tamim Iqbal Khan said on Twitter: "Entire team got saved from active shooters!!!"

Many Muslims are of the view that negative media portrayal of the faith and misconceptions about Islam and support to racism created by the media led to such attacks.