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Raids and gun control talks follow NZ mosque attacks

March 18, 2019

The country remained on a high security alert following the deadly terror attack on mosques in Christchurch. Victim burials were expected to begin as PM Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet prepared to meet and propose action.

Police stand guard as Muslim men gather
Image: Reuters/E. Su

Police maintained a high-profile presence in Christchurch on Monday as schools and businesses started the working week following the Friday terror attacks on two mosques that left 50 dead.

The suspect charged in the attack, self-avowed white nationalist Brenton Tarrant, remained in custody as investigations continued across multiple countries and New Zealand's government prepared for a Cabinet meeting focused on the attacks.

High security in Christchurch

  • New Zealand remained on high security alert Monday.
  • Police Commissioner Mike Bush said an extra 200 officers would be on duty in Christchurch, as helicopters flew over the city.
  • Residents have returned to schools and officers which had been been locked down for several hours after Friday's attack. 
  • The airport in Dunedin, where Tarrant had lived, was reopened after a security scare caused by a suspicious object found Sunday evening, which forced its closure.

New charges and ongoing investigation

  • On Monday afternoon an 18-year-old man appeared in a Christchurch court, charged with distributing the livestream video of the shooting and allegedly posting a photo of the mosque with the words "target acquired"; however investigators said he was not believed to have been directly involved in the attacks.
  • Meanwhile the accused shooter Tarrant said he did not want a lawyer and would represent himself in the case.
  • Earlier in the day Australian police announced they searched two homes in New South Wales in order to gather material related to Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen who was from this area.
  • Greek officials say they are investigating Tarrant's visits to the country in 2016.
  • Authorities in Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia, Israel and Hungary already announced they are looking into similar visits, on some of which he reportedly studied historic battles between Christians and the Ottoman Empire.

Read more: New Zealand seeks answers from Facebook over livestreamed massacre

Political pressure

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was scheduled to meet with her Cabinet Monday to discuss action to be taken as a result of the terror attack.
  • Over the weekend, she had put pressure on social media companies to explain how the shooter was able to livestream the attack for 17 minutes, and how the footage was able to circulate for hours afterward on multiple platforms. 
  • She also had announced New Zealand would tighten its gun laws.
  • The organizers of the country's largest gun show, the Kumeu Militaria Show near Auckland, announced Monday they have canceled the March 23 event out of respect to the Christchurch victims and due to "elevated security risks.

Mourning continues, burials begin

  • Dozens of graves were being prepared in a Christchurch cemetery on Monday morning as families continued to wait for the bodies of their dead to be released, which has taken time due to the needs of investigators.
  • Many of the victims were foreign nationals, and some of them will be transported abroad for burial. 
  • Thirty-four individuals remained hospitalized.

Read more: Grief and shock, but 'still home' in Christchurch the day after terror attacks

Mosque shooting toll rises to 50

cmb/se (Europa Press, dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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