Latest: 'Our gun laws will change', says New Zealand PM as man charged with mosque massacre

    What we know:

  • 49 people have been killed in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch;
  • At least 48 others are being treated in hospital;
  • Three men and one woman have been arrested. One man has been charged with murder, the other three have been released;
  • The man charged was named as Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, in media reports in his home country;
  • New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern said there is "a real range of ages" among the dead.

Update: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that the suspected killer had five firearms.

She said there were two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm.

He had obtained a gun licence in November 2017.

She said: "Our gun laws will change.

"There were attempts to change the law in 2005 and 2012, and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change."

Ms Ardern said advice for mosques to close remains in place and that a police presence will continue.

Ms Ardern added that three people have been arrested over the attack, including an Australian who has been charged with murder.

She said: "This individual has travelled around the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand.

The man who calls himself Brenton Tarrant on social media

"They were not a resident of Christchurch, in fact, they were currently based in Dunedin at the time of this event.

"Inquiries are ongoing to establish whether the other two who were arrested were directly involved with this incident.

"The fourth person who was arrested yesterday was a member of the public who was in possession of a firearm, but with the intention of assisting police.

"They have since been released."

Ms Arden added that the safety of the public remains "our highest priority".

She said: "New Zealand police remain on high alert.

"Christchurch residents are urged to stay home and stay safe."

Ms Ardern said the suspect had a Category A gun licence which enabled him to legally obtain semi-automatic weapons.

When asked by a reporter whether semi-automatic weapons should be banned, she said that it was one issue which should be examined.

Ms Ardern said the suspect had a Category A gun licence which enabled him to legally obtain semi-automatic weapons.

When asked by a reporter whether semi-automatic weapons should be banned, she said that it was one issue which should be examined.

Speaking of the police officer who detained the suspect, Prime Minister Ardern added: "Many of you may have seen the footage of the arrest and I can only describe it as an act of bravery on behalf of all New Zealanders and an act that showed very little regard for their own personal safety."

Ms Ardern said: "I want to finish by saying that while the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers.

"As is the entire nation, we are all unified in grieving together."

She added: "Rhetoric of racism, division and extremism has no place not only in New Zealand but I would say in a society as a whole."

New Zealand police tweeted that Christchurch District Court will be closed to the public during the appearance of the 28-year-old man charged with murder, due to the "heightened security risk".

New Zealand police tweeted that the suspect has now appeared in court in Christchurch.

There was no detail given of any plea entered.

The force tweeted: "While the man is currently facing only one charge, further charges will be laid. Details of those charges will be communicated at the earliest possible opportunity."

Police added that 45 additional officers were deployed to Christchurch from other districts, with another 80 being drafted in today.

They tweeted: "A complex investigation is underway into this terrible attack, and Police have a number of a priorities today in terms of investigation and intelligence gathering.

"However another absolute focus for us is to ensure that the victims of this attack, including family members and loved ones of those killed and injured, have the best possible structures in place to provide support and welfare."

Earlier: Graves prepared in Christchurch for burials of mosque massacre victims

Christchurch's mayor has said graves are being dug for the dozens of worshippers who were shot dead in two New Zealand mosques.

At least 49 people were killed during midday prayers on Friday.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said city officials today were working closely with the community on the specific requirements of a large number of Muslim funerals.

Authorities say most if not all were killed by an immigrant-hating white supremacist.

Earlier: White House denounces 'act of hate' after 49 killed in live-streamed New Zealand mosque massacre

Donald Trump has sent condolences to the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre, and the White House issued a statement denouncing the "vicious act of hate".

At least 49 people have been killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in an attack broadcast in horrifying live video by an immigrant-hating white nationalist wielding at least two rifles.

The gunman accused of being behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a rambling manifesto that mentioned the US president, calling him "a symbol of renewed white identity", a connection the White House denounced as "outrageous".

The reference nonetheless cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the way the president has been embraced by some on the far right.

The president tweeted that his "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".

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders went further in denouncing the gunman's actions, with a statement that said: "The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate."

The man accused of the shootings left behind a 74-page document that outlined his motivations. He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants and who was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He embraced Nazi imagery, voiced support for fascism and, at one point, cheered on Mr Trump.

"Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?" was one of the questions the manifesto's author posed to himself. His answer: "As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no."

The number of hate groups nationwide has risen significantly since he took office, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

The White House quickly rejected any link between the shooting and Mr Trump.

"It's outrageous to even make that connection between this deranged individual that committed this evil crime to the president who has repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism and made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack," said Mercedes Schlapp, the White House's director of strategic communication.

"We are there to support and stand with the people of New Zealand."

Earlier: Man charged after 49 killed in live-streamed massacre at New Zealand mosques

One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.

She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

The attack shocked people across a nation of five million people which has relatively loose gun laws but is so peaceful even police officers rarely carry firearms.

The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe by Muslims.

Using what may have been a helmet camera, he live-streamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on worshippers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque, where at least 41 people were killed.

An attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more.

(PA Graphics)

Police did not identify those taken into custody and gave no details except to say that none of them had been on any watch list.

At least 48 people, some in critical condition, were being treated at Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds, authorities said.

While there was no reason to believe there were any more suspects, the prime minister said the national threat level was raised from low to high.

Police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in the country, and Air New Zealand cancelled several flights in and out of Christchurch, saying it could not properly screen customers and baggage.

Police said the investigation extended 240 miles to the south, where homes in Dunedin were evacuated around a “location of interest”.

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror.

Mr Peneha, who lives next door, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try to help the victims.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

He said the gunman was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

Police at the mosque in Linwood (Mark Baker/AP)

In the video that was apparently live-streamed, the gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes firing at people he has already cut down.

He then walks outside, where he shoots at people on the pavement. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle. The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground.

After going back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car.

The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about three miles away.

The man who claimed the Al Noor shooting said he was not a member of any organisation, acted alone and chose New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world are not free of “mass immigration”.

- Press Association

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