• New Zealand grappled with grief and horror on Sunday as the death toll rose to 50 people two days after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. The terrorist attack appeared to have been carried out by a white nationalist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the killings on Facebook.
• A 28-year-old man from Australia was charged with murder and appeared Saturday morning in a Christchurch courtroom. Court papers identified him as Brenton Harrison Tarrant. The New Zealand police said he would face additional charges.
• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that the suspect would be tried in New Zealand, and that her government would discuss gun regulation at a meeting on Monday. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said.
Suspect will be tried in New Zealand, Ardern says
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that the suspect charged in the Christchurch shootings, an Australian citizen, would be tried in New Zealand, and that her government would discuss the country’s gun laws at a meeting on Monday.
“There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said at an afternoon news conference.
She also said she would look into reports that there had been a surge in gun sales in New Zealand since the attack on Friday.
A 28-year-old man from Australia has been charged with murder and appeared Saturday morning in a Christchurch courtroom. Court papers identified him as Brenton Harrison Tarrant.
Ms. Ardern said he would face more charges, but she did not say whether terrorism charges were being considered. She said she was seeking advice on whether Mr. Tarrant might be extradited to Australia, but that his trial would take place in New Zealand.
“He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand for the terror attack he has committed here,” she said.
There was no other shooter, Ms. Ardern said. She said one person had been taken into custody as a result of evidence collected during the investigation but that there was no evidence he was linked to the attack.
Nine minutes before the attack, Ms. Ardern said, her office was among more than 30 lawmakers and news organizations that received a manifesto purported to be from the gunman. In accordance with protocol, her office forwarded it to parliamentary security within two minutes of receiving it, she said.
Had the manifesto provided details that could have been acted on immediately, Ms. Ardern said, her office would have acted on them. She said she had read parts of the manifesto, which she called “deeply disturbing.”
Ms. Ardern said the list of people killed was still provisional and that the families of victims would receive financial assistance. She said families would receive the bodies of victims starting Sunday evening, with all bodies expected to be returned by Wednesday.
The prime minister also said that Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, had shared her condolences over the shootings, parts of which were live-streamed on the social media platform.
On Sunday, Facebook said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack that had been posted worldwide, including 1.2 million that were blocked at upload. The company said it was also removing edited versions of the video that did not show graphic content.
Many victims ‘need multiple surgeries,’ hospital says
Thirty-four victims of the shootings remain in Christchurch Hospital, 12 of them in critical condition, officials said Sunday.
A 4-year-old girl also remains in critical condition at a children’s hospital in Auckland, where she was flown after the attack.
A Christchurch Hospital spokesman, David Meates, said that on Saturday the hospital treated nine new victims of the Friday attack. They arrived with cuts, embedded glass fragments and injuries to their backs, knees and feet.
Mr. Meates said the hospital was running seven operating theaters on Sunday instead of the usual three.
“Many of these people need multiple surgeries due to the complex nature of their injuries, and the need to provide a number of shorter surgeries in a phased way so patients have the best chance of recovery,” he said.
[Here’s how to help the victims of the Christchurch shootings.]
Companies say employees were among those killed
The airline Air New Zealand said one of its employees, Lilik Abdul Hamid, had died in the attack on Friday.
The company’s chief executive, Christopher Luxon, said in a statement that Mr. Hamid had been an aircraft maintenance engineer with Air New Zealand for 16 years.
“He first got to know the team even earlier when he worked with our aircraft engineers in a previous role overseas,” Mr. Luxon said. “The friendships he made at that time led him to apply for a role in Air New Zealand and make the move to Christchurch.”
Mr. Hamid is survived by his wife and two children, Mr. Luxon said.
Later on Sunday, the company PricewaterhouseCoopers said that one of its employees, Areeb Ahmed, had also been killed.
In a Facebook post, the company said it had learned of Mr. Ahmed’s death from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan.
“Areeb was a loved and respected member of our PwC family who lived our values every day,” it said. “His smile, warmth, dedication, respect and humor will be deeply missed.”
Little information on other victims as death toll rises
The police on Sunday said the death toll had risen to 50 as officials discovered another body at the mosque on Deans Avenue, where most of the victims had been killed. Another 50 people were injured.
“As of last night we were able to take all of the victims from both of those scenes and in doing so we have located a further victim,” said Mike Bush, New Zealand’s police commissioner.
Mr. Bush said a list of victims’ names has been compiled with the help of senior religious leaders and had been shared with family members. He said the list was an informal one, though, and officials would not confirm the names publicly until the bodies had been formally identified.
The bodies have not yet been released to the victims’ families, but Mr. Bush said he was conscious that Muslim religious practice requires prompt burial.
“We are aware of the cultural and religious needs so we are doing that as quickly and sensitively as possible,” he said.
The police defend their response time
Police officials say it took 36 minutes from when they received the first call about a shooting at a mosque to when the suspect was taken in custody.
“That is an incredibly fast response time,” said John Price, commander of the district police. “You have a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city, and I am very happy with the response of our staff.”
During a news briefing on Saturday, officials provided a partial timeline but many details remained unclear. Officials said the gunman arrived at a second mosque, where he continued his rampage, seven minutes after leaving the first.
The suspect was later arrested in a car, which was carrying improvised explosive devices, by two police officers. Mike Bush, New Zealand’s police commissioner, said the officers prevented further deaths.
“Those two police officers acted with absolute courage,” Mr. Bush said on Sunday. “I’m so proud of what they’ve done. They have prevented further deaths and risked their lives doing so.”
Attack could spur political battle over gun control
The shooting has vaulted New Zealand into what could be a divisive political battle over gun control in the country, where an extraordinary number of people own weapons, with few restrictions. The authorities say the suspect in the assault used five guns he had acquired legally, including two semiautomatic assault weapons.
Within hours of the Friday killings, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised changes to New Zealand gun laws and said regulations around semiautomatic weapons was “one of the issues.” New Zealand’s attorney general, David Parker, appeared to go beyond that statement at a vigil for the victims on Saturday, indicating that semiautomatic weapons would be banned, but he later backtracked. Mr. Parker told Radio New Zealand that had been trying to reflect Ms. Ardern’s comments that “we need to ban some semiautomatics, perhaps all of them.”
“Those decisions have yet to be taken, but the prime minister has signaled that we are going to look at that issue,” Mr. Parker told the broadcaster.
Licensed New Zealand gun owners pushed back. The Kiwi Gun Blog, a gun-rights online publication, said that among the mosque shooter’s goals, one was “to cause the gun rights of responsible New Zealanders to be attacked.” It said “our prime minister is now capitulating with him.”
There is no dispute that acquiring a military-style semiautomatic weapon is relatively easy in New Zealand, where guns are plentiful. According to a 2017 small arms survey, there are more than 1.2 million firearms among the population of 4.6 million.
Under New Zealand law, anyone 16 or older may seek a firearms license, and anyone 18 or older who has applied for a firearms license can seek a permit to possess a military-style semiautomatic weapon.
In the United States, the National Rifle Association, a leading advocate of gun-owner rights, issued its first statement on the attack, denouncing the killer while saying nothing about the weapons used.
“It doesn’t matter if these senseless tragedies occur in the United States or abroad, our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the group. “This was the act of a monster. To the extent the N.R.A. is ridiculed for extending our deepest sympathies to those impacted by this horrific event, we make no apologies for our thoughts, words or prayers.”
Stories of heroism emerge: ‘I was prepared to give my life’
Abdul Aziz, 48, was in the Linwood mosque praying with his four sons when he heard gunshots. He immediately knew something was wrong.
Rather than running from the sound, he ran toward it and grabbed the first thing he could find — a credit card machine — and flung it at the attacker. He tried to distract the attacker in a move that many fellow worshipers have described as heroic, weaving through cars in the parking lot, attempting to draw the gunman’s attention away from the mosque.
Latef Alabi, the acting imam of Linwood, told The Associated Press he believed the death toll would have been far higher at the mosque without Mr. Aziz’s actions.
Mr. Aziz said he saw the attacker drop one of his guns and managed to grab it but when he pulled the trigger, the gun was empty. When the gunman went to his car, presumably to grab more ammunition, Mr. Aziz said he threw the gun at the assailant’s windshield, shattering the glass. The assailant sped away.
Mr. Aziz remained humble, saying in an interview with The New York Times that anyone in his position would have done the same. “I was prepared to give my life to save another life,” he said.
Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Mr. Aziz lived in Australia for 27 years after having fled the violence of his home country. He moved to New Zealand a few years ago, describing it as a beautiful country.
Reporting was contributed by Charlotte Graham-McLay, Damien Cave and Jamie Tarabay from Christchurch, New Zealand.