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Chch terror Day 3: Attacker was lone gunman

The Christchurch terrorist attack was carried out by a lone gunman, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed. 

She said there was no indication the other two people arrested on Friday were connected to the attack. Another person has been taken into custody, but Ardern said their connection was “tangential” and they had been arrested as the result of information gathered during the investigation.

The death toll rose to 50 on Sunday morning, as investigators discovered another body. Thirty-five people are in hospital, including a four-year-old girl in critical condition at Starship Hospital in Auckland.

There are also known to be several people missing. A provisional list of missing people was drawn up and provided to families late on Saturday night. Arden said that the list was not a “formal list” and would not be released. 

A complete list would not be available until formal identification is completed. The victim identification process was continuing, bolstered by six identification staff who had travelled from Australia. 

Bodies would begin to be returned to families from Sunday night. Arden said all bodies should be retuned by Wednesday.

Speaking to media in Wellington earlier today, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police had discovered another victim at the Deans Ave mosque while they were moving the victims from both locations on Saturday night, taking the death toll to 50.

The bodies of victims had not yet been released to their families, but police were working swiftly with pathologists and coroners to allow burials in line with Islamic customs.

“We have to be absolutely clear on cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen, but we are so aware of the culture and religious needs so we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible.”

The 28-year-old, Brenton Tarrant, had been charged with murder on Saturday and remanded until April 5 to appear in the High Court.

Bush said police were looking at all their legal options for possible charges, but were working under the Crimes Act as a priority.

The three other people arrested in the aftermath did not appear to have been involved in the attacks.

Two people arrested at a cordon had a firearm seized from their vehicle. One of them, a woman, had been released without charge, with the man charged with firearms offences.

Another 18-year-old man would appear in court on Monday, but Bush said his arrest was “tangential” to the shootings.

“At this moment, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks, we will not be saying anything until absolutely convinced as to how many people involved,” Bush said.

It was “quite obvious” that the category-A firearm used in the attacks had been modified, while Tarrant’s firearms licence had been obtained in New Zealand under the NZ Arms Act in 2017.

Bush offered praise for the two Lincoln police officers who had arrested Tarrant, saying they had “acted with absolute courage” in intervening.

“They put themselves in harms way to stop any further attack and I believe they did prevent further attacks.”

He would not provide any details about the officers, but said they would be identified and recognised for their heroism at some stage.

“They are overwhelmed and humbled by the feedback they are getting - if you ask them they will tell you they were just doing their job.”

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Pakistan’s foreign minister says at least six Pakistanis were killed in the shootings, the Associated Press reported.

The number of Jordanians killed in has risen to four after a man died of his injuries, while Egypt says four Egyptians were among those killed.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that at least four Palestinians were among those killed, but acknowledged they could have been counted by Jordan or other countries.

Turkey’s president says authorities are investigating the movements and possible contacts in Turkey of the man suspected of the attacks. 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also demanded that New Zealand ensure that the perpetrators of the attack be punished.

State broadcaster TRT says Brenton Tarrant visited Turkey twice in 2016 — on March 17-20 and September 13 to October 25. The station has released a security camera image of him arriving at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

- additional files Associated Press 

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