(CNN) – A man charged with murder in connection with the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that left at least 49 people dead appeared in court Saturday.Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, appeared before a Christchurch district judge dressed in a white prison jumpsuit. He has been charged with one count of murder, according to a court filing. The name of the victim has been withheld by the court.Tarrant was silent during his court appearance. He was remanded in custody to reappear in court April 5.The courtroom was closed to the public because of the heightened security risk, New Zealand police said.The unprecedented attack, which was apparently broadcast live for a time on social media, shocked the usually peaceful nation. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labeled the carnage a terrorist attack and has vowed to change the country’s gun laws as a result.The shooter, an Australian citizen who had a gun license acquired in November 2017, carried out the killings with two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm, Ardern said.”While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change,” she told reporters.”It’s the time for change,” said Ardern, who had earlier called Friday one of her country’s “darkest days” and described the suspects as holding “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or the world.
Police escort people away from outside a mosque in central Christchurch after the shootings.Tarrant is one of three people arrested in connection with the shootings. The other two remain in custody.A fourth person who had been taken into custody was later determined to be an armed bystander who wanted help police.Ardern said the suspect traveled around the world and was in New Zealand sporadically. He had no criminal history in New Zealand or Australia, and had not drawn the attention of the intelligence community for extremist views. At the time of the attack, he was based in the southern city of Dunedin, some 225 miles from Christchurch, she said.The Prime Minister was traveling from Wellington to Christchurch on Saturday alongside other politicians, including the opposition leader.”As is the entire nation, we are all unified in grieving together,” she told reporters.New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were investigating the suspects’ ties to shootings that occurred as Muslims convened for Friday prayers, the busiest time for many mosques around the world.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the massacre the work of an “extremist right-wing, violent terrorist.”
The suspected New Zealand shooter livestreamed video and posted a manifesto online under the name Brenton Tarrant. CNN has not confirmed this is his real name. Police have not publicly identified him.The suspected shooter livestreamed video of the attack and posted a lengthy manifesto online under the name of Brenton Tarrant. In the manifesto, he identifies himself as a white man, born in Australia, and lists the white nationalists who have inspired him.Ardern urged the public not to share the “distressing” 17-minute video.Police said they were not searching for any other suspects but stressed the investigation remained fluid. None of those arrested in the attacks had been on any security watch lists prior to the attack.In addition to the 49 killed, authorities said 48 people were wounded, many of them seriously. Some of the injured were young children with gunshot wounds.One worshiper who said he was inside one of the mosques said he heard the gunman “continuously shooting for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Attack apparently broadcast live on social media
Authorities declined to discuss potential motives for the attack. But the 87-page manifesto posted on social media just before the shooting began was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim screeds and explanations for an attack. It was not signed.Police said they were aware of a video shared online and broadcast live during the attack, which apparently showed a gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire. “We would strongly urge that the (video) link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed,” New Zealand police said.The brazen nature of the broadcast, and the apparent failure of tech companies to prevent its proliferation online, raised concerns. In New Zealand, commentators also worried that the horror would sow deep divisions in a society that has largely avoided the polarizations that have spread elsewhere.
A police officer secures the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque.Facebook New Zealand spokesperson Mia Garlick said in a statement that the footage was quickly taken down. “New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we removed both the shooter’s Facebook account and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” she said.CNN has not been able to independently confirm any information about the attackers or the the alleged video at this stage.A spokesperson for Google and YouTube called the shooting a “terrible tragedy,” adding in a statement: “Shocking, violent and graphic content has no place on our platforms, and is removed as soon as we become aware of it. As with any major tragedy, we will work cooperatively with the authorities.”Twitter removed an account it believed was linked to the main suspect and was working to keep the video of the incident off its platform, a spokesperson said. “We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Christchurch today,” Twitter said in a statement. “Twitter has rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this. We also cooperate with law enforcement to facilitate their investigations as required.”Australian Prime Minister Morrison said he asked for flags to be flown at half-staff out of respect for those killed. “Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence. Kia kaha (stay strong),” Morrison tweeted earlier, using a Maori phrase.US President Donald Trump said in a tweet: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can.”