The New Zealand Police on Monday said the person accused of killing 51 people in the attack on mosques in Christchurch city in March last year wanted to “inflict as many fatalities as possible”, reported BBC. The police made the assertions before the High Court during a hearing on his sentencing. The accused, Brenton Tarrant, has pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 attempted murders and one charge of terrorism.
The 29-year-old Australian faces life in prison, possibly without parole. His sentencing will be announced on Thursday. Tarrant is representing himself in court. Over the next three days, more than 60 people will give “victim impact statements” to the court.
On March 15 last year, Tarrant had attacked two mosques, killing 51 people in Christchurch city of New Zealand. A part of the attack was broadcast live on Facebook, drawing public criticism against social media platforms. The police said he had planned to target a third mosque – the Ashburton Mosque – before he was arrested.
Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes told the court that the assailant began planning for the attack in 2017, reported AFP. He gathered information about mosques in New Zealand and his aim was to target the shrines at the busiest hour. “He admitted [to police] going into both mosques intending to kill as many people as he could,” Hawes said. “He stated that he wanted to have shot more people than he did and was on the way to another mosque in Ashburton to carry out another attack when he was stopped.”
Tarrant had travelled to Christchurch and flew a drone over his primary target, the Al Noor mosque, months before the attacks. He told police that he had planned to burn down the mosques after his attack.
Survivors and families of victims also recounted the horror before the court. “I see the images and I hear the constant sound rata-rata-rata – the sound of the gun shooting – in my head,” Abdiaziz Ali Jama, a 44-year-old Somali refugee, told AFP. Jama saw her brother-in-law Muse Awale being shot dead.
“I have flashbacks, seeing dead bodies all around me. Blood everywhere,” said the son of one Ashraf Ali. Gamal Fouda, the Al Noor mosque imam, said he “saw the hate in the eyes of a brainwashed terrorist”.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said it will be a difficult week for survivors and families of the victims. “I don’t think there’s anything I can say that is going to ease how traumatic that period is going to be,” she had said last week.
The Christchurch attack was the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand. Within weeks, members of Parliament voted to change their gun laws, banning military-style semi-automatic weapons.
On May 15 last year, global leaders and tech giants had pledged to tackle the spread of hate and violent content online at a summit in Paris. Arden and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the “Christchurch Call to Action” at a meeting of digital leaders for the G7 nations.