New Zealand shootings: Death toll from Christchurch mosque attack rises to 49 as suspect charged with murder

Man in his late 20s charged with murder and set to appear in court tomorrow as authorities admit three other suspects may have had no role in attack

Will Kirby
Friday 15 March 2019 10:12
New Zealand police commissioner says 'one male in his late twenties has been charged with murder'

The death toll in the Christchurch mosque shootings has risen to 49, New Zealand's police commissioner has confirmed, adding that a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder and is set to appear in court on Saturday.

Up to 41 people died at one mosque, seven at another and one person died in hospital, Mike Bush told reporters, while more than 20 others have been taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Follow live updates from the Christchurch mosque shootings here

Officers are also trying to determine the roles of three other suspects arrested, Mr Bush said, adding that they may not have had anything to do with the attacks.

He confirmed that none of the people arrested were on watchlists and authorities will take measures to ensure no chances were missed to stop the attack, which he described as a "very well-planned event".

"Part of our investigation ought to be to look back to ensure that law enforcement didn't miss any opportunities to prevent this horrendous event," he said.

Asked if the police were searching for any other suspects, Mr Bush said: "We never assume that there aren't other people involved, that's why we've got an immense presence out there ... but we don't have named or identified people that we are looking for, but it would be wrong to assume that there is no-one else."

He added: "At this point we are not actively looking for any identified persons."

There were also two IEDs on one car, one of which has been defused and another is being defused by the security forces.

Two suspicious bags in Auckland, which were destroyed in controlled explosions earlier, are not believed to be connected to the mosque attack, he says.

Mr Bush also confirmed the hospital was not targeted, as some rumours had suggested.

Video circulated on social media, apparently taken by the gunman and posted online as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said: "It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," adding it marked one of New Zealand's darkest days.

"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home," she added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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