Christchurch Terror Attack day six: What you need to know

2:07 pm on 20 March 2019

On Friday, the worst terror attack in New Zealand history took place at two mosques in Christchurch, resulting in the deaths of 50 people. Here's what you need to know on day six.

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Floral tributes for the victims of the Christchurch mosque massacres have been offered around the country. Photo: Recep Sakar/ Anadolu Agency/ AFP

What happened?

A lone gunman fired shots into crowds at two Christchurch mosques on Friday. One attack was at the Al Noor mosque next to Hagley Park, and one at the Linwood mosque.

Fifty people died, seven at Linwood mosque and 42 at Al Noor mosque. One person died later in Christchurch Hospital.

The dead include a five-year-old girl and her father, who were chased by the gunman and shot in front of horrified passers-by.

Fifty people were injured.

The national security threat level has been increased from low to high for the first time in New Zealand's history.

Who has been charged?

Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder, and more charges are likely. He has been remanded in custody until 5 April when he will appear in the high court.

An 18-year-old man appeared in court yesterday accused of distributing the live stream of the Christchurch shootings. Police said one other person arrested on Friday was facing charges not directly related to the events.

What is happening today?

Police Commissioner Mike Bush says police knew where the suspect from the Christchurch mosque attacks was going after the shootings and intervened.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush says reuniting families with victims from the Christchurch attacks is an "absolute priority".

Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo: RNZ

Mr Bush said alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant was apprehended on the way to another target, but the commissioner would not say what the target was.

Within 10 minutes of being notified, the armed offenders squad was on the scene and Tarrant was arrested in 21 minutes, Mr Bush said.

Officers seized two assault rifles and at least one semi-automatic rifle while arresting Tarrant.

By yesterday, 21 victims had been formally identified and many other victims are expected to be identified and made available to their families today.

The FBI are on the ground in New Zealand, Mr Bush said. Australian Federal Police, other Australian police, and other jurisdictions overseas are being consulted.

The threat level remains at high.

Along with Tarrant, three others were arrested around the time of the attacks.

"There was a lone gentleman who appeared at one of the cordons. He wasn't involved, he did have a firearm, so that's been dealt with," Mr Bush said.

"There was another couple who turned up at a cordon - a male and a female.

"She has been released without charge. I do understand that the male in that vehicle has been charged with firearms offences.

"We do not believe that they are in any way related to the attacker or the attack."

Media in the United States are reporting that Islamic State (IS) has called for retaliation over the Christchurch mosque shootings.

A spokesperson for the jihadist movement, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, said the killings should incite supporters to avenge their religion.

In a 44-minute audio recording reported by the New York Times, Mr al-Mujahir portrays the shootings as an extension of the US-led campaign against IS.

New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi said every major jihadist group had called for retaliatory attacks after the Christchurch shootings.

New Zealand SIS director-general Rebecca Kitteridge said the agency was focused on supporting the police investigation and resulting prosecutions, and on mitigating the risks to New Zealanders posed by possible revenge or copycat attacks.

Eight people injured in the attacks are still in a critical condition, with a total of 29 still in hospital.

The victims in critical care include a four-year-old girl at Starship Hospital. Her father is in Auckland Hospital in a stable condition.

Christchurch Muslim Adam Miyalkhel says he does not feel safe returning to his place of worship.

Mathullah Safi at his citizenship ceremony.

Mathullah Safi at his citizenship ceremony. Photo: RNZ /SUPPLIED

Mr Miyalkhel, who was born in Afghanistan, has not slept in days.

On Friday, in a matter of minutes, a lone gunman killed many of his friends and his cousin Mathullah Afi.

Mr Miyalkhel is now helping care for five of his cousin's six children, as well as his own six children.

Mr Afi and Mr Miyalkhel were refugees who arrived in New Zealand together in 2007.

Later this week, mosques across the country are expected to re-open, but Mr Miyalkhel does not feel safe returning to his place of worship.

"If something happens in an earthquake, or something happens, we just all run to the mosque because we feel this is our guard hall, we are safe here. This is why we are still in stress, because we are not safe at all," Mr Miyalkhel said.

Four days after the attacks, some Christchurch residents are tackling the tough questions.

About 200 people from around Christchurch gathered to talk about how they can look ahead to the future.

About 200 people from around Christchurch gathered to talk about how they can look ahead to the future. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

A public forum last night, organised by EduAction and the Canterbury Progressive Network, attracted about 200 people and their ideas for making the city a better place.

Fish and Game, which represents 150,000 anglers and game bird hunters, supports a ban on military assault rifles following the tragedy.

Fish and Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor said military style semi-automatic weapons were "designed for one thing only and that's to kill people and they should have no place in New Zealand society."

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand's gun laws would be changed after the mosque attacks.

Some New Zealanders who own semi-automatic weapons have begun voluntarily handing their firearms over to police for destruction.

Police said people should contact them before bringing in firearms.

Taxi drivers in Christchurch have been offering their services for free.

Vigils and commemorations around the country

  • Dunedin City Council and Amnesty International's Otago University branch are holding a vigil from 7pm on Thursday 21 March at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Organisers moved the event from the original venue, the Octagon, because of the large turnout expected.
  • The Jummah Remembrance: Vigil for Lives Taken in Christchurch will be held at Aotea Square in Auckland at 6pm on Friday, 22 March.
  • A vigil will be held at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth at 7pm on Friday, 22 March.
  • A candle-lit hikoi of unity will be held in Hastings on Friday, starting at Albert Square at 6.30pm and finishing at the Baitul Mokarram Masjid in Heretaunga Street East. Women wanting to attend are asked to wear headscarfs as a sign of respect, if they feel comfortable doing so.
  • An anti-Islamophobia rally, Kia Kaha Aotearoa: Stand Against Racism, will be held at Aotea Square in Auckland at 2pm on Sunday, 24 March.
  • A vigil will be held at North Hagley Park in Christchurch at 5pm on Sunday, 24 March.
  • Essential contacts

    Victim Support has set up a Givealittle page for victims and their families following the attack. By 1.30pm today it had raised almost $6.9 million.

    Those who have a missing family member are urged to go the Restoring Family Links (RFL) website, where they can register missing persons or register themselves as alive.

    Missing persons can also be registered on 0800 115 019. A member of the police will be in contact thereafter.

    Police launched a Tell Police' form on their website for anyone who wants to give them information on the attacks.

    Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

    Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

    Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

    Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

    Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

    Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

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