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New Zealand court charges Brenton Tarrant with murder over mosque attacks

A Christchurch court on Saturday charged the suspect in New Zealand’s deadliest mass shooting with murder, with police saying more charges will be coming against the man identified as Brenton Tarrant.

The 28-year-old Australia native is accused of shooting to death 50 people and injuring as many more in an attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch just before Friday prayers on March 15.

Forty-one people were shot and killed at the Masjid Al Noor and seven were killed 6 km (3.7 miles) away at the Linwood Islamic Center. Two people died in hospital.

The court was closed to the public, police said, citing security reasons, but Judge Paul Kellar allowed photographs on condition Tarrant’s face was blurred to preserve his right to a fair trial. Inside the court, Tarrant smirked and flashed the “okay” gesture – known in some internet circles as white-power symbol.

Ardern has said Tarrant planned to continue his attack, and guns and improvised explosives were recovered from his vehicle.

New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said further charges would be filed against Tarrant. He was remanded into custody without bail and is due to make another court appearance on April 5.

As of Saturday evening, 36 people remain hospitalized including 11 who are in intensive care. The patients range in age from 2 years old to their late 60s, according to the hospital.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said three people had been arrested, and inquiries were ongoing as to whether the other two were directly involved. A fourth person arrested on Friday was a member of the public in possession of a firearm with the intention of assisting police and has been released.

None of them had a criminal record, she said.

Tarrant had published a 73-page document in which he said his motivation for the shooting – which he broadcast live on Facebook – was to stop Muslim “invaders” from immigrating to “European” countries.

Few of the victims have yet been publicly identified, but they include immigrants and refugees, including children from Syria. People from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey remain among the missing.

Tarrant claimed to not be part of any organization but said he had contact with white nationalist groups, and cited white nationalist figures as inspiration, including Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people, including more than a dozen children, in a 2011 bomb and gun attack in Norway.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said Tarrant was not known to intelligence agencies in New Zealand or Australia.

Earlier Saturday, police remained at a property linked to Tarrant in Dunedin, about 300 km south of Christchurch, Newshub reported. Police evacuated nearby properties on Friday night. Tarrant claimed in his “manifesto” that a mosque in that city was his original target.

Dozens killed in terrorist attack on 2 New Zealand mosques

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