New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured in Wellington today, has vowed to overhaul the country’s gun laws. Picture: Getty Images
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured in Wellington today, has vowed to overhaul the country’s gun laws. Picture: Getty Images

Ardern demands change as terror accused to face court

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to change the nation's gun laws, confirming the "primary perpetrator" in Christchurch's terror attack used five weapons.

"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ms Ardern said in Wellington today.

"There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017.

"Now is the time for change."

At least 49 people were killed and more than 40 injured when Australian man Brenton Tarrant opened fire at two mosques yesterday in an act of hate-fuelled terror.

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team depart Christchurch the day after the attack on two mosques. Picture: Charles Miranda
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team depart Christchurch the day after the attack on two mosques. Picture: Charles Miranda

Ms Ardern said she was advised the gunman obtained a Category A gun licence in November 2017 and "under that, he was able to acquire the guns that he held".

The 28-year-old Australian-born citizen, who was not a resident of Christchurch, used two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm, she said.

"When people, of course, hear that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I'm committing to that," Ms Ardern said.

Tarrant will today face court under heavy armed security on at least 49 murder charges for the worst massacre in New Zealand history.

Tarrant's high-security court appearance will come as the city was warned to brace for the death toll to rise, with at least one dozen victims in critical condition.

He will also be charged over the more than 40 people who remain in hospital, most suffering gunshot wounds and others with wounds while attempting to escape his rampage.

Forty-one worshippers slain were at the Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch, with seven more killed at the Linwood Ave mosque, five kilometres away, three of them outside the building. Another victim died in hospital with operating theatres at various hospitals in the city conducting surgery well into the night last night. All hospitals were closed to general patients other than in emergency cases as medical staff struggled to deal with the mass casualties.

Tarrant livestreamed his bloody rampage, having a day earlier posted on social media a prompt to watch.

New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said three others connected to the killing spree, two men and a woman, were also still under arrest and being questioned by police.

All of them are linked in some way to Tarrant, who had only been in New Zealand for a matter of months.

All three were found to have been armed when arrested but their involvement remained unclear, with Mr Bush saying at least one armed man was arrested at the scene but did not appear to be involved.

A high police and military presence remained on the streets of Christchurch but also Dunedin, about a four-and-a-half hour drive south from Christchurch.

Overnight, police evacuated residents living near a property in the city in what police said was a "precaution".

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to visit the scene of the massacre today. Picture: Getty Images
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to visit the scene of the massacre today. Picture: Getty Images

In his social media rant and published manifesto, Tarrant said Dunedin's ethnic community and the Al Huda Mosque was to be his primary target which he had long scoped for attack but changed his mind when he saw Christchurch's mosques.

A car linked to the tragedy in Christchurch was registered to an address in Dunedin.

Police and defence forensic experts were also still inspecting two IED (improvised explosive devices) that were found in cars linked to Tarrant to establish their sophistication.

They were disarmed but it was not clear if they could have caused damage.

Critically though, Tarrant has boasted how he had originally planed to make a bomb attack but decided on weapons including assault rifles instead.

Their tour of NZ was cancelled in the wake of the tragedy. Picture: Charles Miranda
Their tour of NZ was cancelled in the wake of the tragedy. Picture: Charles Miranda

The Bangladeshi national cricket team flew out of Christchurch this morning with a heavily armed police escort.

Players were being escorted in threes to their gate by police. They expressed sorrow for the city and said team members were very upset by events and were in shock how close they came to being victims too.

'PLATFORM OF VIOLENCE': LEADERS REACT

New Zealand's former Prime Minister Helen Clark backed Ms Ardern's call for tighter gun controls in New Zealand.

"I hope the New Zealand parliament will back her the way the Australian parliament backed John Howard," Ms Clark said today.

"I for one would be delighted if our gun laws were tightened to equal those of Australia."

Ms Clark also slammed social media platforms for their "lack of self-regulation" in terms of monitoring hate speech.

"The academics in New Zealand who have ben studying white supremicism will tell us (the shooting) is not out of the blue, but what has exacerbated the problem is social media platforms. Social media has become a platform for the propagation of violence and violent acts."

‘Dark day’. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the media. Picture: Getty Images
‘Dark day’. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the media. Picture: Getty Images

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he hoped New Zealand "will arrest these terrorists and do the necessary under the law of the country", while Indonesian President Joko Widoyo, head of the world's largest Muslim country, said "we strongly condemn these kind of violent acts".

Both Germany Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom were referenced in Tarrant's disturbing manifesto, offered their sympathies as did UK's Prime Minister Theresa May.

US President Donald Trump and the Queen also offered their condolences, along with Prince Charles, Princes William and Harry and their wives Catherine and Meghan.

 

Active investigation. Police at the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. Picture: AAP
Active investigation. Police at the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. Picture: AAP

HOW IT UNFOLDED

The disturbing 17-minute livestream of Tarrant's rampage shows terrified worshippers cowering in the corners of the mosque as he sprays them with automatic weapon fire and then stalks around, through rooms of the mosque, seeking more victims. Witnesses say he fired repeatedly into bodies lying on the floor but never said a word.

He began the Facebook live-feed of himself driving to the mosque, with 18th century marching song "British Grenadiers" playing in the background, getting out the car, taking a weapon covered in white writing before walking calmly down the road and into the mosque. He just as calmly is seen returning to his car and driving away, explaining his rampage.

Witnesses described desperately breaking a window and door to escape as the shooting started inside the Masjid Al Noor and of bodies lying everywhere inside the mosque.

There are witness reports that Tarrant also pursued a five-year-old child down the street outside the mosque, gunning the child down. A small child is known to be among the dead.

One eyewitness said about 300 people were in the mosque at the time. He said people tried to find places to hide and about 30 to 50 people were lying on the ground.

"Bullets were all around the shooter as he shot," the witness said.

"All of them were shot down - all of them."

Pakistan's foreign ministry says four Pakistanis were wounded, while at least five others are missing. At least three Turkish citizens were injured in attacks.

shot and also fled the scene. No one had seen Mucad since the shooting, his brother said.

New Zealand Police chief Mike Bush said a number of IED's or improvised explosive devices had been uncovered in cars. One man, dressed in army fatigues, was arrested outside Papanui High School in Christchurch.

Tarrant, who used his own name on his social media accounts, tweeted a picture three days ago of magazine cartridges, appearing to dedicate them to other right-wing extremists whose names were printed on them in white pen.

But authorities say he was not believed to have been on any watchlist.
One cartridge was for Alexandre Bissonnette, a Canadian man sentenced to life in jail for the 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque which killed six and injured five.

The same cartridge also mentions Luca Traini, an Italian man sentenced to 12 years for shooting and wounding six African migrants in Macerata in early 2018.

Another of the cartridges mentions the Shipka Pass battle in 1877-1878, between the Russian Empire and Bulgarians and the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War.

And it names Novak Vujosevic, the hero of the Battle of Fundina in Montenegro between Christians and Muslims in 1876.

Prime Minister Morrison, speaking in Sydney, extended his sympathies to New Zealand and "particularly those of Islamic faith".

"Australia and New Zealand - we're not just allies, we're not just partners. We're family. As family members … we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged.

"We stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist (who) has taken the lives, stolen lives, in a vicious, murderous attack."



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