New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern burnishes leadership after Christchurch carnage

Nellie Chapman
March 17, 2019

New Zealand's prime minister vowed Saturday to toughen the country's gun laws after revealing the alleged shooter behind Christchurch's mosque attacks had legally bought the five weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, used in the massacre.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that heroic Pakistani national Rashid Naeem, who died after trying to stop the New Zealand attacker, will be given a national award.

At least 50 people, hailing from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia were killed, when 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant opened fire at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques.

Police said they had released a preliminary list of the victims to families, which has helped give closure to some relatives who were waiting for any news. That makes New Zealand's per capita rate of gun ownership higher than Australia's, but still far below the United States, where there is more than one gun per person. Tarrant, charged with one count of murder, will remain in custody until his next court appearance on April 5. He was likely to face further charges, police said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media on March 16 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Police then rammed the gunman's vehicle and arrested him.

Pacific Islands Forum Chair and president of Nauru Baron Waqa expressed his "deepest condolences" to the people and government of New Zealand on what he called a sad day for Christchurch and a sad day for the region.

Among the wounded, two were in critical condition, including a four-year-old child, said Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Officials in New Zealand are now carrying out the hard task of identifying those who died. I still can't understand or believe why and how this happened.

The Queen released her own statement about the mass shooting, in addition to the Sussexes and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a pillar of strength
Armed police were deployed at several locations in all cities, unusual in a country that has had low levels of gun violence. Business Standard reports that Tarrant allegedly used "two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns and a lever-action weapon".

Tarrant was also purportedly inspired to commit the mosque shootings by Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Oslo in 2011.

Abdul Aziz says he ran towards the gunman outside the mosque, throwing a credit card machine at him.

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack", said Ardern.

In a tweet on Sunday, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said that three more Pakistanis have been identified among those killed in the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand.

The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch during Friday prayers at 1.40pm (00:40 GMT).

Ms Ardern burst into prominence during New Zealand's 2017 election, feted globally as part of a new wave of progressive, young leaders that included France's Emmanuel Macron and Canada's Justin Trudeau.

Among 50 people who were killed in the attack, it has been reported that 9 of them were from Pakistan.

Some of the guns appear to have been modified to make them more deadly, she said, adding that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

New Zealand has previously tried to change its gun laws, with the most recent attempt coming two years ago.

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