Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates

What we know:

  • Fifty people were killed at two Christchurch mosques on Friday
  • Thirty are still being treated for injuries, while nine remain in a critical condition
  • Twenty-one bodies have been identified and are in the process of being returned to their families. A further six will be by midday Wednesday
  • The first funeral took place on Wednesday
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the shooter will face justice in New Zealand
  • Islamic State has called for supporters to "avenge their religion"
  • Turkey's President continues to play the livestream footage at his campaign rallies as well as calling for New Zealand to restore the death penalty
  • The police investigation into the attacks is the largest in Aotearoa's history, with more than 250 officers and support staff involved
  • A national day of mourning is planned, but the date is yet to be decided
  • $6.7 million has been raised on Givealittle for the victims' families, and another $2.3 million on LaunchGood
  • The Government will announce gun law reforms before the next cabinet meeting and Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government is considering a gun buyback scheme
  • Some Kiwi businesses are pulling their advertising from Facebook

If you would like to donate to the official Victim Support fund, go here. Victim Support's number is 0800 842846.

If you need to talk to someone about what you've read or seen in the past few days, call or text Need To Talk? on 1737.

5:40pm - Over 200 mourners have turned out for the funerals on Wednesday.

4:55pm - Burials are about to start for two victims of the mosque attacks. A spokesperson for the Christchurch City Council says these will take place at 5pm.

They are understood to be for Junaid Ismail, from India, and Ashraf Ali from Fiji.

Ismail, 36, was born in Christchurch, and owned the Springs Road Dairy.

He is survived by his twin brother Zahid, who escaped the attack, and his wife, three children and mother, who relied on his care.

Junaid Ismail
Junaid Ismail Photo credit: Supplied

Fifty-eight-year-old Ali, also known as Babu, was a regular worshipper at the Masjid Al Noor mosque, his sister Tamina Bibi told The Fiji Times.

Babu was a taxi proprietor, and lost his wife just a year ago. He is survived by his only daughter.

"We waited on Friday and Saturday and there were no updates in relation to Babu," Bibi explained, "and finally, last night was informed that Ali's body was recovered from the mosque."

4:40pm - A vigil for Christchurch is being held in Blenheim at 6:30pm tonight.

The Eventfinda page says it will be held at Seymour Square, 92 High St.

"An opportunity for the people of Marlborough to gather together at Seymour Square, Blenheim for a multi-faith vigil for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Please gather on the Henry Street side of the Square," the page says.

"To ease congestion, those attending are asked to park away from Seymour Square and walk to the event where possible. Free parking will be available in the Alfred Street Car Park from 5:30pm."

4:10pm - There will be more burials this afternoon following Friday's tragic mosque shooting. These will begin at approximately 5pm at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Linwood.

Families ask people not to photograph or film any bodies being lowered into the graves, or other headstones or grave sites within the cemetery.

3:30pm - Ardern says New Zealanders need to confront extremism where ever it emerges.

Security officials are taking threats "extremely seriously", both from Islamic terrorists and the far-right.

"White supremacist groups, those who you would consider to be ultra-right wing extremist groups, they were of interest in New Zealand. We are not free of those here either."

3:18pm - Ardern is asked about threats made by Islamic terrorist groups calling for retaliatory attacks. She says she's focusing on the response of the New Zealand Muslim community.

"What I've heard from the Muslim community [is] the rejection of extremism, violence and hate, no matter where it comes from," she says.

3:13pm - Ardern says 30 victims have been approved for release to families.

She says disaster victim identification (DVI) staff have been working "incredibly hard" to get this done, however she acknowledges the systems in place aren't designed for an event like this.

3:00pm - Jacinda Ardern says planning continues on a proposed national memorial service in Christchurch. She's looking how the rest of the country will be involved.

A two-minute silence will be held on Friday to mark the one-week anniversary of the attack, and a call to prayer will be broadcast nationwide.

2:45pm - Jacinda Ardern has thanked emergency responders for their quick actions on our "darkest day".

In a meeting with St John staff who had been the first on the scene on Friday, she praised their professionalism and said they had saved lives.

"New Zealand has not experienced a terrorist attack on the nature of what we saw on Friday. None of you will have experienced something of that scale and that magnitude. No one can prepare for that," she said.

"And yet the way you responded demonstrated utter professionalism, clear compassion."

2:33pm - Phil Arps has been opposed bail in the Christchurch District Court facing two charges relating to the sharing of the livestream filmed by the alleged gunman.

The 44-year-old stood calmly in the dock throughout his appearance.

Public gallery were excluded from the appearance due to safety and security reasons.

Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said "we're in a high-risk situation, people may act in ways they would otherwise not do so".

Both charges were laid under the Films, Video and Publications Classifications act 1993 and relate to the distribution of a livestream of the shooting at the Deans Avenue Mosque by the alleged shooter.

There were strict restrictions around what was able to be reported from the court under the Bail Act 2000.

He remains in police custody and reappear in the Christchurch District Court on April 15.

His defence lawyer argued for name suppression, but that was denied.

1pm - New Zealand Tattoo, a military entertainment show, intended to celebrate New Zealand's "heritage, identity and our place in the world" has been cancelled in the wake of the terror attacks.

The show, which was meant to take place in Palmerston North on April 12 and 13, would have featured pipe and brass bands, and kapa haka, as well as military displays that included firearms and explosives.

"Following the recent events in Christchurch, Council considers it would be inappropriate to host an event of this nature," said Heather Shotter, chief executive of the Palmerston North City Council.

"We regret the inconvenience or disappointment this brings for performers and those who have already purchased tickets, but we are confident they will support our view that this is the right thing to do at this time."

Tickets can be refunded.

12:55pm - Kiwi basketballer Steven Adams has expressed further despair at the Christchurch attack. 

Speaking to The Oklahoman, Adams said he didn't want his thoughts to garner attention, but instead focus should be on those affected by the terrorism.

"Whatever it is, they're going to have more of an impact than me, because they're going to make a proper change. They're on the ground there."

The 25-year-old was one of the first sporting stars to comment on the tragedy on Friday.

12:30pm - The funeral in Christchurch continues.

Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates
Photo credit: Newshub.
Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:55am - In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has praised Jacinda Ardern's leadership and called on all Western leaders to "embrace Muslims living in their respective countries".

He also rejected any association between the terror attacks and Christianity, and said the alleged gunman attempted to plant seeds of hate among humans.

11:40am - The Fedeation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) and New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA) have released a statement with the Auckland Council saying that four Auckland mosques will be opened on Friday to anyone who wishes to come along.

The statement said the groups are working together to promote the events and "encourage the community to come together and stand as one in this difficult time."

The Ponsonby Masjid, Ranui Mosque, North Shore Islamic Centre and Masjid Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq in Pakuranga will be open for community and religious leaders.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff will attend events at Ponsonby Masjid and Ranui Mosque.

The events will be supported by police and the mosques will have their doors open from 5pm to 8pm, with people free to stay later if they wish.

11:20am - Media have been allowed to film outside of the funeral. These photos show crowds congregating outside the cemetery.

Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates
Photo credit: Newshub.
Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:10am - The Mental Health Foundation has released a statement expressing its disappointment that some people are "speculating the terrorist must have been mentally ill".

It said it was "unsurprised by the comment" as people want to see terrorists as outliers but "white supremacy is not a mental illiness".

"When you connect radical extremists with mental illness, you make it even harder for  people with mental health issues to live in their own homes as members of their own communities.

"Being on the receiving end of racism, discrimination, exclusion and bullying are all risk factors for mental distress. They all contribute to suicide."

11:05am - Police have begun formally releasing the names of Friday's terror attacks. Many media outlets have already established the victims of the attacks.

11am - A funeral for one of the victims of the terror attacks is expected to begin shortly.

10:45am - Ardern confirmed there will be a national memorial and she will provide further details later on Wednesday.

10:40am - Ardern allowed students from the school to ask her questions.

The first student asked how she was, to which Ardern said: "I am very sad".

She confirmed there is no specific, on-going threat.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to students at Cashmere High School.
Jacinda Ardern speaks to students at Cashmere High School. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:30am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is at Cashmere High School in Christchurch. The school is reeling from the attacks, which left two current students and one recent past student dead.

10:20am - Police have identified where the alleged gunman was likely to attack next, but won't be sharing that information at this stage.

10:15am - Bush said within five minutes and 39 seconds the first responders were armed on the scene and within ten minutes the Armed Offenders Squad were on the scene.

The alleged shooter was arrested 21 minutes after police were notified.

He said this response time saved lives.

Bush said the investigation included the New Zealand police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Australian police, and other Five Eyes partners.

Most FBI officers are in Wellington to help with "profiling".

Christchurch terror attack: Wednesday live updates
Photo credit: Newshub.

10:05am - Police Commissioner Mike Bush said as of 11:30pm on Tuesday night, 21 of the victims had been formally identified and were being made available to be released to their families.

By the midday, an additional six victims will be identified and available to their families.

The majority of identifications are expected to be completed by the end of Wednesday, but some victims will take longer to identify.

"I want to again reassure you that we are working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to complete the formal identification processes as quickly as possible," said Bush.

"I have over 100 specialists and experts including Police, DVI, NZDF pathologists, odonatologists and overseas assistance."

Bush said the identification process must be to the evidential standard of the Coroner. He said this would be important for any future trial.

9:55am - The first burial of a victim of Friday's attacks will take place at 11am at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Linwood.

9:50am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has touched down in Christchurch for her second visit to the city since Friday's attacks.

9:45am - Police Commissioner Mike Bush will speak to media at 10am.

9:00am - A vigil will be held at the University of Waikato student centre on Wednesday night between 8:30pm and 10pm.

"Staff, students and others are invited to take part in a student-led vigil tonight, to commemorate the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, and send a message of solidarity and support to their whānau, friends and the wider Muslim Community," a statement said.

8:45am - A source has told The AM Show that the first two funerals will be held at 10am on Wednesday.

8:40am - The North Carolina Senate was adjourned on Wednesday by Senator Mujtaba Mohammed in honour of the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

"No one should ever have to fear for their own life, especially when in a place of worship," tweeted fellow senator Kirk deViere.

8:35am - The Association of British Muslims - Indonesia has posted on social media paying its respect to those affected in the Christchurch terror attacks.

8:25am - Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said the organisation is overwhelmed by the support shown following the attacks and the money is going to the victims for whatever they need.

Volunteer Negeen Sanaei told The AM Show her group has done its best with the resources available to support the affected families.

"In regards to funds... it's not specifically [Victim Support] funds, it's just having some petty cash [so]... we can get food for the people, we can get taxis, we can get vehicles, we can do things immediately.

8:15am - Rukmini Callimachi, a New York Times journalist who has written about Islamic State's recent comments, told RNZ they aren't the first threatening remarks the group has made against targets.

But she did warn IS is not the only jihadist group calling for retaliatory attacks in the wake of the terror attacks.

"So far, almost every major jihadist group has called for that."

7:55am - Donations have now topped $9 million, with $6.7 million raised on Givealittle and $2.3 million on LaunchGood.

7:45am - Terrorism expert Greg Barton told The AM Show said Islamic State's statement was "hardly surprising" after the attacks, but said the group's silence over the last six months had been "remarkable".

Barton said the group remains active in Iraq and Syria with up to 30,000 people in the region, but will be hoping someone in the United States, Europe or another centre rises up.

"They launch night time raids, they don't control territory, but they are a very powerful guerrilla movement."

7:20am - Crusaders player Sam Whitelock has asked for time to grieve before discussing the team's name.

The franchise is considering re-evaluating its identity after concerns around what the Crusaders moniker was originally established on.

7:00am - Scotland's Secretary of State has signed the book of condolence at New Zealand house.

6:45am - A spokesperson for the Islamic State (IS) has called for revenge after the terror attacks.

"The scenes of the massacres in the two mosques should wake up those who were fooled, and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion," said the spokesperson in an audio recording.

The spokesperson's identity has not been verified, but he is believed to be known as Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. It is believed to be the man's first comment in six months.

He also denied claims from US President Donald Trump that IS was defeated.

The statement was not specifically aimed at New Zealand.

6:15am - One of Australia's most senior Muslim clerics was initially refused entry to New Zealand after the terror attacks.

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, the president of the Australian National Imams Council, advises governments on Islamic issues. But he was told by New Zealand authorities not to go to the airport as he wouldn't be allowed into the country without a special visa.

However, after raising the issue with the Australian Government, he was granted a visa on Tuesday.

He has previously sparked controversy for his views on homosexuality, which he has said is responsible for spreading diseases.

5:50am - More than 800 versions of the terror attack livestream footage have been uploaded to a database used to block violent material, reports The Washington Post.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, which includes Facebook, Google, and Twitter, has added "digital fingerprints" for the videos so they can be detected.

5:40am - In the condolence book, Harry and Meghan wrote: "Our deepest condolences... We are with you."

They also signed it off with "Arohanui", which means with deep affection.

5:25am - Lawyers for the teenager who egged controversial Australian Senator Fraser Anning and was subsequently slapped by the politician have announced the teen won't be making a complaint to police over the matter.

5:10am - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly ignored criticism and continued to show excerpts of the terror attack livestream at his campaign rallies overnight, according to The Washington Post.

5:05am - Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have made a surprise visit to the New Zealand High Commission in London to sign the book of condolence on behalf of the Royal Family.

While at New Zealand House they met with High Commissioner Sir Jerry Mateparae.

5am - Police confirmed on Tuesday night that post-mortem examinations have been completed on all 50 victims. 12 of the victims have been identified to the satisfaction or the Coroner and six have been released to their families.

Police said they understood the frustration of some families who want their loved ones back, but said the identification process was complex.

"We are also looking at any way to improve our communications with the families and ensure they are kept fully informed about what is happening."


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