The man arrested over the murder of 49 people at mosques in New Zealand is believed to have met extreme right-wing groups during a visit to Europe two years ago, according to security sources.
Investigators are looking at the international dimension of the massacre and whether the gunman, who has identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, has links with violent racist individuals and organisations in Europe and Asia.
Although the killings were described in the media as the work of a “lone wolf”, three people – two men and one woman – were held in custody. One suspect was released after being questioned by police yesterday.
Mr Tarrant, 28, who was born in Australia, live-streamed his killings of children, women and men at two mosques in a video which was posted on 8chan, an extreme right-wing forum from where it was widely disseminated.
In the footage, which he filmed using a head-mounted camera, the man divulged his racist and anti-immigrant views before opening fire on people at random.
He appeared in Christchurch District Court on Saturday.
On Friday evening the first victim of the attack was named by his family – Daoud Nabi was killed at Al Noor mosque. He was shot as he tried to shield another worshipper from the gunman, according to NBC News.
Witnesses described seeing bodies and “blood everywhere” following the attack at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 01:45 local time (12:45 GMT).
A search of a property in Dunedin, around 200 miles to the south, was carried out by police.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern described the atrocity as a terrorist attack and one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.
She told a press conference yesterday that the suspected killer had five firearms, adding that two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm were found. The attacker had obtained a gun licence in November 2017.
Ms Arden said: “Our gun laws will change.”
Security remains tight across Christchurch. All mosques in New Zealand have been closed.
Those affected in the attack include citizens from Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Ms Ardern added that none of those arrested had a criminal record and were not on any watch lists.
Greg Robertson, chief of surgery at the Canterbury District Health Board, said 11 people remain critically ill.
A two-year-old boy is among the 39 people being treated at Christchurch Hospital, Mr Robertson said. A 13-year-old boy was also wounded in the attack, he said. They are among 39 victims being treated at the facility.
The gunman listened, while driving to carry out the attack, to a song from a Serbian nationalist video made in 1995 during the war with Bosnian Muslim forces. The lyrics praised the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was subsequently convicted of genocide and war crimes.
Names of men convicted of murdering Muslims and Jews in Europe were found written on the weaponry carried by Mr Tarrant.
There was also the words “for Rotherham” – referring to the child abuse scandal in the English city, as well references to historic battles between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
Requests for information about the gunman by the intelligence agencies of New Zealand and Australia to foreign counterparts has led to the tracing of a man using that name visiting Europe, as well as the Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, bordering Kashmir, the Wakhan Corridor into Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang region of China.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush The person who was detained was “not willing to be arrested”, he said, adding that he listened to live audio of it taking place.
An extra 125 police officers have moved into Christchurch to assist with keeping the city safe, he said.
In a 16,500 word document in which he “explains” why he carried out the murders, Mr Tarrant says he began planning his operation after a visit to Europe in 2017 and refers to a lorry attack in Sweden by an Isis supporter, the election in France of Emmanuel Macron, who defeated the National Front, and racial mixture in France.
However, while espousing white supremacist ideology, he praised “non-diverse nations” saying China was the ideal state in following this policy. He is also said to have praised Chinese monoculturalism to acquaintances.
World leaders paid their respects: Theresa May offered her “deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand”. The former US president Barack Obama said: “Michelle and I send our condolences to the people of New Zealand. We grieve with you and the Muslim community. All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.”
US President Donald Trump offered his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand. “The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” he wrote.