Christchurch shootings: New Zealand's worst nightmare evolves

2019-03-16 18:50:40

Saturday was the day after New Zealand's darkest day. Hours after terror came to Canterbury dozens of people are still missing and some of the victims from Friday's terrorist attack have been named.

Stuff learned a New Zealand sporting representative was among those killed in the terror attack. Atta Elayyan, 33, the goalkeeper for the national and Canterbury men's futsal teams, was shot by a gunman as he prayed at a mosque on Friday.

The Palestinian man, who was born in Kuwait, recently became a father and was a popular member of the Christchurch tech industry.

Another of the victims, retired Christchurch engineer Ali Elmadani was killed while worshiping at the Masjod Al Noor mosque in Deans Avenue. Elmadani and his wife immigrated from the United Arab Emirates in 1998.

Syrian Khaled Mustafa was killed while praying at the Deans Avenue mosque. His son Hamza, who is about 16, is missing, and his son Zaid, who is about 13, is in Christchurch Hospital

71-year-old Haji-Daoud Nabi died trying to shield another person from the gunman.

Sayyad Milne, 14, has been described as a good-natured, kind teenager with dreams of being an international footballer. The Cashmere High School student was in the Al Noor mosque, on Deans Ave when the attack started. His family is still waiting for official news.

At last count 49 people had been killed, 39 injured remained in hospital with 11 in intensive care. The victims ranged in age, from children, to people in their 70s. They were predominantly men, but there were women too.

On Saturday morning accused shooter Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in Christchurch District Court. Tarrant was charged with only one count of murder, though more are expected. The Australian who has been living in Dunedin did not enter a plea.

The public were not allowed in court, but the media, as "surrogate of the public" were permitted to attend. The judge made an order to blur Tarrant's face.

We also learned 28-year-old Tarrant was a member of Bruce Rifle Club near Milton, 50km from Dunedin, and a former personal trainer.

Tarrant made no application for bail. He is due to appear in court again on 5 April.

Police said they believe there was only one gunman, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The two mosques were attacked by the same person. They were a seven minute drive apart.

On Saturday morning Ardern and Attorney General David Parker vowed to change gun laws. Ardern said the main offender was in possession of a gun licence, obtained last November. Five guns were used in the attack including two semi-automatic weapons. "I can tell you right now our gun laws will change," the prime minister said.

The prime minister spoke to US President Donald Trump and said he passed on condolences and asked what the US could do to help. Ardern replied that he should pass on "love and sympathy to Muslim communities" who are currently hurting.

By 1pm Ardern had returned to Christchurch where she donned a black headscarf in solidary with the grieving Muslim community.

From Hagley College, one of the high schools in lockdown on Friday, to the Refugee and Migrant Centre in Christchurch, she delivered a message of love and support on behalf of all New Zealanders.

By Saturday evening in Christchurch about 500 people quietly gathered at the avenue and most carried bouquets to pay tribute to those lost in the shootings at both mosques.

Many came just to place their flowers and leave while others stood, in quiet mourning, for much longer.

A plea to the public has seen over $4 million dollars donated for victims' families.

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