CHRISTCHURCH • New Zealand's worst mass shooting in modern history appears to be the act of a lone gunman who attacked worshippers at two mosques out of racial hatred.
The death toll from last Friday's massacre in Christchurch has risen to 50 after the body of another victim was located at one of the crime scenes, police said yesterday.
One person has been charged with murder, while three other people apprehended with firearms are not believed to be involved, they said.
"At this point, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks," Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters. "I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved."
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday charged with one count of murder. He entered no plea and was remanded in custody until April 5. He is expected to face further charges, police said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference yesterday: "He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand for the terrorist act he committed here." She said she is seeking advice on his possible deportation to Australia.
New Zealand is reeling from the attack that the perpetrator filmed and live-streamed on social media.
He walked into a packed mosque on Friday afternoon and opened fire, killing more than 40 people. He then drove across the city to another mosque and continued the rampage. Fifty other people were injured and 34 remain in hospital. Twelve are in a critical condition, including a four-year-old girl.
Tarrant grew up in the small Australian city of Grafton and worked in a local gym as a personal trainer, Australia's Nine News reported. He left his job in 2010 to travel. He spent time in Turkey, and possibly went to Pakistan, North Korea and Eastern Europe too.
"We are all gob-smacked, we don't know what to think," Tarrant's grandmother, Madam Marie Fitzgerald, told Australia's Channel Nine network. "It is just so much... to take in that somebody in our family could do anything like this," she said from her home in New South Wales.
A senior Turkish security source said Tarrant had entered the country twice in 2016 - for a week in March, and for more than a month in September.
The Turkish authorities had begun investigating everything from hotel records to camera footage to try to ascertain the reason for his visits, the source said.
Tarrant most recently lived in the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin. He attended a local gym and was a member of the Bruce Rifle Club in the south Otago town of Milton, local media reported.
Meanwhile, religious organisations in Singapore have strongly condemned the shootings, as they urged people of different religions to stand united against such acts of terror. The National Council of Churches of Singapore said in a statement on Saturday: "We denounce in the strongest possible terms these inhumane, barbaric and cowardly acts of terror, which targeted defenceless Muslim men, women and children as they were engaged in acts of worship."
Muslim charity organisation Jamiyah Singapore said yesterday: "The regular occurrence of these hate crimes in recent times must jolt us to accept the reality that terrorism has no religion."
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli yesterday urged Singaporeans to look beyond race and religion in showing love and care to others, helping to prevent "disastrous and violent acts" such as the New Zealand mosque attacks.
BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE