Spotlight: Death toll climbs to 50 in Christchurch terror attacks, gun laws to be changed

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-17 23:24:04|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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People gather to mourn for the victims of the attacks on two mosques of Christchurch in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhang Jianyong)

CHRISTCHURCH/WELLINGTON, New Zealand, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the terror attacks on two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch rose to 50, as one more victim was found at one of the shooting scenes, the police said here on Sunday.

Investigators found the victim while removing bodies from the Masjid Al Noor Mosque where more than 40 people were killed as a gunman stormed the mosque and went on a shooting rampage on Friday afternoon, Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a press conference.

The number of injured stood at 50, and 36 of them were still being treated in Christchurch Hospital, with two remaining in intensive care unit and one child at a children's hospital.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday that the bodies of those killed were being returned to their families but only a small number at this stage.

She expected that all the bodies would be returned to families by Wednesday.


Major public events during the weekend have all been cancelled across New Zealand and security has been beefed up in places such as airports.

Religious institutions on Saturday afternoon opened their doors to all faiths as a symbol of peace, while businesses chose to stay open as a sign of strength and the people of the garden city decided to come together in a show of unity.

Not far from the mosques where the shootings happened, people came to place flowers to express their condolences to the victims.

On Sunday, a community choir sang in the rain for hundreds of people to mourn the victims of the nation's worst ever terror attacks.

Among the sombre scene, a number of people from the local Muslim community embraced one another in tears, while others laid flowers along the fence of the wreath wall near the shooting scene.

The New Zealand Parliament would also pay tribute to the victims on Tuesday.


Security across Christchurch has been tightened up after the deadly attack. Prime Minister Ardern said there would be an increased police presence in the city on Monday with an extra 120 officers, while all mosques would be guarded by the police.

Specialist teams would be at Christchurch schools and early learning centers, and support lines were also available to anyone who needed it, she said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand police confirmed Sunday that Dunedin Airport, in the Otago region of the country's South Island, has been closed after a suspicious package was reported there.

At 9:55 p.m. local time Sunday (0855 GMT), the airport received report of a suspicious package on the airfield, and police and specialists were at the scene to determine the nature of the package.


After the deadly attacks, Prime Minister Ardern said the country's gun laws would be changed.

The killer of Friday's mosques attacks had a legitimate gun license, and used modified semi-automatic weapons to carry out the shooting, she said on Saturday.

Altogether five guns were discovered after the attacks, two of which were semi-automatic guns. Other weapons and firearms were also retrieved by the police.

Ardern said on Sunday that she would not stop the sales and advertising of firearms as suggested by academics, but reiterated that there would be changes to the country's gun laws.

The suspected gunman, 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, was charged with murder on Friday. He appeared briefly in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning, and was now held in a high-security facility.

Ardern confirmed on Sunday that her office was one of more than 30 that received an email from the suspected shooter nine minutes before the attack took place, but said the email "did not include a location," and "did not include specific details."

The prime minister said she had sought advice on the possibility of the suspected gunman being deported, but charges and the trial itself would absolutely be conducted in New Zealand, she said.