Dozens of people were killed Friday, March 15 when a man opened fire on religious services at two mosques in Christchurch, with New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush saying 49 people are so far confirmed dead.

In a 9 p.m. press briefing, Bush said one of the people being treated at the hospital had died, bringing the death toll to 49.

Forty-one people died at the Masjid Al Noor and seven were killed at the Linwood Islamic Center.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at an earlier press briefing that three people had died outside the mosque on Linwood Avenue.

Christchurch Hospital is treating 48 people, including young children, for gunshot wounds, Canterbury District Health Board Chief Executive David Meates said in a statement, while other facilities in the area have treated additional patients.

A man in his late 20s was charged with murder and is set to appear in court on Saturday morning.

The shooter, a 28-year-old Australian-born citizen, was taken into custody and has been charged with murder, Bush said. He is set to appear in court on Saturday morning.

Three other people, including a woman, were arrested shortly after the attack. Police believe one of them may not be connected to the incident and the other two are still being investigated, Bush said. All were armed, he added.

“We have recovered a number of firearms from both of the scenes,” Bush said.

Police uncovered two improvised explosive devices that were attached to a vehicle. One was dismantled and police and the military were working to dismantle the second, Bush said.

New Zealand and Australian agencies had no information about any of the people in custody, he said.

“While we do not have anything to believe at this stage that there were any other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage,” the prime minister said.

‘White nationalist milieu’
Ardern described the shooting as a terrorist attack and said it was one of New Zealand’s “darkest days.”

The shooter was able to stream live on social media for nearly 20 minutes during the shooting and had posted a document online detailing his justifications for the shooting, which he said he had planned for two years. The document cited immigration of Muslims to Europe, Australia and New Zealand as the primary reason for the attack.

He claimed to not be part of any organization but cited white nationalist figures as inspiration, including Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people, including more than a dozen children, in a 2011 bomb and gun attack in Norway.

“I think his motivations fit squarely in the white nationalist milieu we have watched rise and solidify for some time. These kinds of movements – and I use movement on purpose because we need to stop seeing these guys as isolated individuals – have been growing quietly on the fringes of cyber space and have now become emboldened,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

“They have heroes like Breivik and Roof, they have cheerleaders in the halls of power, and are more and more starting to see a necessity for action. Instead of just talking online. We are going to see more of this.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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