The death toll of last Friday's terror attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch has risen to 50, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Sunday.
At a press conference in Wellington, Bush said that an additional body was found in the Al Noor mosque, taking the toll up from 49.
Another 50 were wounded in the attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, with 34 still hospitalized. Twelve are in critical condition, in addition to a 4-year-old girl who was taken to Auckland’s Starship hospital and listed as critical, Christchurch hospital chief of surgery Greg Robertson said Sunday. Many will require multiple surgeries.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in Christchurch District Court Saturday charged with murder. He did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody to appear next on Apr. 5.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said "the man is currently facing one count of murder but obviously there will be further charges laid."
Commissioner Bush said Sunday that of the two people apprehended at a cordon on Friday, one woman has been released without charge and a man was charged with firearms offenses. “At this point we do not believe they were involved in those attacks,” Bush said.
He said another man has also been arrested as a result of the investigation. An 18-year-old will appear in court on Monday but Bush said his arrest was “tangential” and he is also not believed to be involved in the attacks.
One other person who armed himself to assist children on Friday was later released.
It appears the gunman may be the sole perpetrator of the attacks.
“At this point, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks,” Bush told reporters. “I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved.”
Bush said the victims have now been removed from both mosques and identification work is progressing.
“Police understands the religious duty of the Islamic faith to bury the deceased as soon as possible, and is working closely with the chief coroner to do everything possible to expedite the process,” he said.
A list of victims’ names has been shared with families, but will not be released until they are formally identified.
This weekend the press started revealing identities of those who are thought to have lost their lives, the youngest being 3-year-old Mucad Ibrahim. He was in Al Noor mosque with his father and older brother Abdi when the attacker began firing. His father and brother escaped but they have not been able to find Mucad.
Among the dead at Al Noor is Sayyad Milne, 14, whose father described him a "brave little soldier," Naeem Rashid, 50 - who has been hailed a hero after trying to stop the shooter - and his son Talha, 21, as well as Haji-Daoud Nabi, 71, who died trying to shield another peron, his son said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ardern laid a wreath and met with members of the Islamic community at a mosque in Wellington on Sunday.
A day earlier she met with the wounded, families of the victims and members of the Muslim community in Christchurch where she expressed her support and announced gun-law reforms on a day marked by public vigils for the victims and widespread expressions of solidarity.
At a Saturday press conference, Ardern acknowledged that police responded immediately to the attack on Friday and the "individual charged was in custody 36 minutes from receiving the first call."
"The offender was mobile. There were two other firearms in the vehicle the offender was in and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack," Ardern added.
She said the gun license he held enabled him to acquire the firearms legally.
"I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change," Ardern said.