A mourner prays near the Linwood mosque. Picture: Mark Baker/AP
A mourner prays near the Linwood mosque. Picture: Mark Baker/AP

Cops reveal chilling detail about gunman

THE Police Commissioner has commended his "courageous" officers who arrested the alleged gunman 21 minutes after they were alerted while he was on route to another attack.

Mike Bush provided the updated information to media today, saying it took 5 minutes and 39 seconds for police to be armed and on the scene ready to respond to the attack. In 10 minutes the armed offenders squad was on the scene, New Zealand Herald reports.

"In 21 minutes the person now in custody was arrested from when we were first notified to when we intervened and he was arrested, away from further harm from the public," Mr Bush said.

"We strongly we believe we stopped him on the way to further attack. Lives were saved."

She asked students to help her keep New Zealand free from hate. Picture: Vincent Thian/AP
She asked students to help her keep New Zealand free from hate. Picture: Vincent Thian/AP

The timeline of events for Friday's attacks which killed 50 people and wounded another 50 was about 40 minutes.

The accused gunman was arrested by two officers on Brougham St, following the shootings at both the Deans Ave and Linwood mosques.

Mr Bush said this was "absolutely an international investigation".

It involved New Zealand police, the FBI, Australian police, and Five Eyes partners.

"To build a comprehensive picture of this person we will put before the court."

Mr Bush confirmed there was just one attacker.

"A focus [of the investigation] is to figure out if anyone else was supporting him in any way. We are still conducting that part of the investigation."

They were not looking at anyone specifically.

At the accused gunman's next court appearance, at the High Court on April 5, there would "undoubtedly be more charges", Mr Bush said.

"We are working towards, as you can imagine, a considerable number of the most serious charges."

Regarding the other people charged, Mr Bush said was a lone man who appeared at one of the cordons with a firearm, and the others were a couple - a man and a woman.

The woman had been released while the man had been charged with a firearms offence.

"We do not believe they are related to the attacker in any way," Mr Bush said.

Police had now formally identified 21 victims and their bodies would be released to their families.

"By end of Wednesday we should have identified all of the victims, some may take a little longer."

Mr Bush said there were 120 people involved in the process, involving forensic experts from overseas, with the focus of "reuniting victims with loved ones".

While for police the number one priority was victims and families, on behalf of the Chief Coroner it was to ensure absolute accuracy in the identification process.

The other responsibility was prosecution.

"We must prove the cause of death to the satisfaction of coroner and judge. You cannot convict for murder without that cause of death."

Meanwhile, police have formally released the first five names of those killed at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque shootings.

 

A police officer stands guard in front of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
A police officer stands guard in front of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP

FIRST VICTIMS BURIED TODAY

Two victims of Friday's terror attack are being buried today while families wait for news they can collect their loved ones' remains and lay them to rest.

Crowds of mourners began gathering at a cemetery in Christchurch where the first of the victims is being buried.

Families who have waited patiently will finally get some closure, four days after their loved ones were murdered.

Six bodies had been returned to loved ones, and the agonising and time-consuming process of identifying the other victims was well underway.

Overall, only 21 of the victims have been identified.

New Zealand Police used social media to ease concerns over the length of time taken to hand the bodies back.

"Police are acutely aware of frustrations by families associated with the length of time required for the identification process following Friday's terror attack," New Zealand Police tweeted overnight.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush addressed the media this morning, declaring the return of victims' bodies is his number one focus.

"This is for us an absolute priority, for family reasons, for compassionate reasons and for cultural reasons," he said.

"It was our intention to do what we could to complete that by today. We are making very good progress."

He explained why it was taking so long.

"I want to assure people about how much we're doing," he said. "We have over 120 people involved in this process. We have the country's best pathologists, we have a large police team, international experts as part of that 120-strong team whose absolute focus is reuniting these victims with their loved ones.

"We have 21 family liaison officers who are meeting and have met with every one of those families.

"We have other obligations. Ensure absolute accuracy in that identification process. It must be to the standard required for a Coroner."

Brenton Tarrant is accused of a terror attack in Christchurch on Friday. Picture: Mark Mitchell/AAP
Brenton Tarrant is accused of a terror attack in Christchurch on Friday. Picture: Mark Mitchell/AAP

IS ISSUES CALLS FOR REVENGE ATTACKS

Islamic State has responded to the terror attack at Christchurch with a 44-minute video inciting further violence and urging supporters to retaliate.

The terror group was one of many to use the New Zealand mosque shooting to call for retaliation, joining the likes of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The video featured the voice of Abu Hassan al Muhajir, who has not been heard from in months and is among the most wanted terrorists on the planet.

"The scenes of the massacres in the two mosques should wake up those who were fooled, and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion," al-Muhajir said.

New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi, who has spent years following IS, explained in a series of tweets why the recording is so significant.

She said the statement from the IS spokesman - a man so secretive nobody even knows what he looks like - is his first in six months and is 10 times longer than his last statement.

Callimachi wrote that al-Muhajir is so self-conscious about guarding his identity and whereabouts that he not only never uses a phone, but he does not allow anybody in a room with him to have a phone.

"A message of advice from the caliph of the believers regarding communication devices: Be careful, careful of communication devices - even if it slows down work from two days to seven days," al-Muhajir said in the recording.

The video follows the gruesome murders of 50 people at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in the normally quiet New Zealand city on Friday.

 

Brenton Tarrant, 28, stormed the mosques and fired on worshippers during the regularly-scheduled Friday Muslim prayer. The Australian man filmed the attack, which was livestreamed via Facebook.

He wrote a rambling 73-page manifesto that he sent to prominent figures, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He has been charged with murder but more charges will follow. He is being kept in a maximum-security prison ahead of his next court appearance on April 5.

The Islamic State recording did not only mention New Zealand. It referred to Donald Trump and the spiritual leader of the terror group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Callimachi wrote that al-Muhajir mentions al-Baghdadi in a way that indicates he is still alive.

 

The news of the recording comes as New Zealand mourns. Ms Ardern, who returns to Christchurch today, said yesterday that her thoughts - and her words - will be reserved for those grieving the dead and she will never "speak his name".

"He sought many things from his act of terror but one was notoriety, that is why you will never hear me mention his name," she said.

"He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.

"And to others, I implore you - speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we, in New Zealand, will give nothing - not even his name."

 

 

ARDERN'S SPECIAL REQUEST FROM STUDENTS

Prime Minister Ardern has returned to Christchurch to meet with those affected by Friday's massacre.

She attended Cashmere High School where Sayyad Milne and 16-year-old Hamza Mustafa went before their young lives were tragically ended at the hands of Brenton Tarrant. A third Cashmere student, Mustafa's 13-year-old brother Zaed, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his leg.

Ms Ardern hugged students and urged them to help her rid New Zealand of racism and extremism.

"Now, the Muslim faith is a faith where, particularly for women, you can see the expression of their faith," she said.

"So, some worry about whether or not they will be able to continue to have that expression and feel safe in New Zealand. I know every single one of you right now, just as much as me, want to do nothing more than to ensure that people feel safe.

"They feel like they can practise their religion, no matter what it is. No matter what their background. And this is where I have something I can ask of you.

 

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with students at a high school visit in Christchurch today. Picture: Vincent Thian/AP
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with students at a high school visit in Christchurch today. Picture: Vincent Thian/AP

 

"Feeling safe means feeling free from violence, and there's lots of things that government can do to make sure people are free from violence, but we'll do those things. But it's also making a place where there's no environment for violence to flourish, where we don't let racism exist, because racism breeds extremism, breeds some of the things that we unfortunately have had visited upon New Zealand.

"So this is my request. I alone cannot get rid of those things by myself. I need help from every single one of you. And so, if we want to feel like we're doing something to make a difference, you show the outpourings of love, gather together, send that strong message, look after one another, but also let New Zealand be a place where there's no tolerance for racism ever, and that's something we can all do."



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