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Suspect In New Zealand Mosque Shootings Officially Charged With Murder

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A police officer secures the area in front of the Masjid al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The 28-year-old Australian man suspected of carrying out mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand has made his first court appearance, wearing handcuffs and a white prison suit as he waited to hear the charges against him.

Brenton Tarrant on March 16 flashed what many consider to be a white power gesture -- an upside-down "OK" sign -- as he entered the courtroom in the city of Christchurch.

Tarrant showed no emotion as one murder charge was read against him. The judge said "it was reasonable to assume" further murder charges would follow.

The suspect did not request bail and was ordered to be held until his next court appearance, scheduled for April 5.

New Zealand was in mourning on March 16, a day after 50 people were killed and nearly 40 more were wounded at two mosques in Christchurch in an attack that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called one of the country's "darkest days."

The gunman, believed to be a white supremacist, live-streamed the killing spree from a head-mounted camera and posted a manifesto that included anti-Muslim rants.

The man, armed with at least five guns, burst into the Masjid al-Noor mosque in central Christchurch and opened fire during midday prayers.

It is believed he fled and then drove to the Linwood Masjid mosque, shooting and killing more people.

"Those injured range from young children to the elderly. They include men, women, and children and they were among those who had been both killed and injured," Prime Minister Ardern said.

Police said the alleged shooter was arrested about 36 minutes later in a car that was carrying improvised explosive devices.

Two other people are also being detained in connection with the shootings, but details have not been released about what ties they might have to the massacres.

An imam who was leading prayers at the Linwood mosque when the gunman burst in and opened fire said on March 16 that the Muslim community's love for New Zealand was not shaken by the tragedy.

"We still love this country," Ibrahim Abdul Halim said. The imam vowed that extremists would "never, ever touch our confidence."

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa
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