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New Zealand Mosque Suspect Appears in Court

Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is lead into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. (Suspect's face blurred at source)

The main suspect in a mass shooting in at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that left 49 people dead appeared in court Saturday.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian citizen and self-proclaimed white nationalist, was led by two armed guards into the court in Christchurch where a judge read one charge of murder to him.

After the suspect left the court, the judge said that while "there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others."

Two other suspected accomplices have also been arrested. Police are trying to determine to what extent, if any, they were involved in the attack.

In a news conference Saturday morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tarrant's onslaught was cut short when he was apprehended. "It was his intention to continue his attack," the prime minister said.

She called the mass shooting "an extraordinary act of violence," and vowed "our gun laws will change." She said the shooter had five guns, two of them semi-automatic. All the weapons were legally obtained.

She said neither the gunmen nor the suspected accomplices were on any terrorist watchlist in New Zealand or Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the suspect as an "extremist right-wing violent terrorist."

Police stand by a collection of flowers near the Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019, where one of the two mass shootings occurred.
Police stand by a collection of flowers near the Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019, where one of the two mass shootings occurred.

The attack came during Friday prayers when the mosques were filled with hundreds of worshippers. Officials say forty-one people died at the Al Noor Mosque, and seven were killed at the Linwood Mosque, a 10-minute drive away. Children are among the 48 people being treated for gunshot wounds.

The shooter live-streamed the assault on Facebook. He also published a 74-page white nationalist manifesto in which he denounced Muslims and called immigrants "invaders."

The manifesto also said he chose to make his attack in New Zealand to show that nowhere in the world was safe.

Tarrant had worked as a personal trainer, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company. The news organization reported the manager of a gym where Tarrant was employed said he began traveling overseas in 2011. Manager Tracy Gray said Tarrant traveled to Europe and Asia, including North Korea. A photo published online by ABC shows Tarrant in Pakistan in 2018.

The victims of Friday's shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Mass shootings and violent crime are rare in New Zealand, a country of nearly 5 million people. Until Friday, the country's worst mass shooting was in 1990, when a lone gunman killed 13 people in the small town of Aramoana.

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