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  1. ITV Report

'It was more than a war': Survivors recall New Zealand mosque shootings as authorities begin release of bodies

  • Video report by ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray

Thousands have gathered at vigils across New Zealand for the victims of the mass shootings at two mosques.

Fifty people are now known to have been killed with dozens injured in hospital.

One survivor of the shooting, Mustafa Gonimy told ITV News he heard "50 to 100 gunshots - it was more than a war."

"People fell on me and they didn't get up - I had to move my body from under them... it was hard. Probably these people... are dead."

  • The latest from Christchurch ahead of potential changes to gun law in New Zealand

An Australian man, Brenton Tarrant, remains the only person to have been charged in connection with the attacks at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday.

His uncle, Terry Fitzgerald, issued an apology to the victims on Australian broadcaster Nine News.

"We are so sorry for the families over there, for the dead and the injured.

"What he has done is just not right", he added.

Brenton Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder. Credit: AP

Two people arrested after the attacks were not believed to have been involved, police said, with one released and another charged with a separate offence.

Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder and was remanded until April 5. Police said further charges would follow.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said he would not be ruling out the possibility of further suspects “until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved”.

He announced the latest death in a news conference on Sunday.

Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu

He says 36 victims remain in hospital with two of them in critical condition.

On Sunday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the process of returning the bodies of those killed to their families would begin that evening.

According to Islamic law, bodies should be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death.

“It’s likely to be a small number to begin with,” said Ms Ardern.

“It’s the expectation that all bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday.”

The prime minister has spent the weekend meeting grieving families and friends - an approach which has been applauded online.

PM Jacinda Ardern meeting families affected. Credit: AP

A 50th body was discovered at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Sunday morning, with victims believed to range in age from children to the elderly.

Thirty-four people remain in hospital with injuries, 12 of them in intensive care.

A four-year-old girl taken to Starship Hospital in Auckland remains in a critical condition.

Ms Ardern said her office was one of more than 30 recipients of an emailed copy of the manifesto just nine minutes before guns were fired.

“It did not include location. It did not include specific details,” she said.

Social media giants were criticised in the wake of the attack for not doing more to stop such content being posted on their platforms.

On Sunday, Facebook said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack worldwide in the 24 hours after the shootings, 1.2 million of which were blocked at upload.

The attack was apparently live-streamed on Facebook from the account of Australian Brenton Tarrant. Credit: AP

Mia Garlick, of Facebook New Zealand, said: “We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people.

“Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we’re also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content.”

Mr Bush said the gunman had obtained a legitimate firearms licence in 2017 in New Zealand, adding that it was “quite obvious” he had “modified a category A firearm”.

The country has been left in a state of shock following the attack. Credit: AP

The suspect held a Category A gun licence allowing him to legally obtain semi-automatic weapons.

Ms Arden has vowed to change the country’s gun laws in the wake of the shooting spree.

Of those killed in the massacre, 42 died at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue in central Christchurch, seven were killed at the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque, and one person died at Christchurch Hospital.

A fund set up to help victims’ families and those who suffered injuries has raised over 4.3 million New Zealand dollars (£2.2 million).

The page on the site givealittle was created by a council of victim support groups. The council said it had been overwhelmed with the number of donations, adding it would need to create a formal process to distribute the money.

Flowers have been laid following the attack in Christchurch. Credit: AP

British security sources said there were no apparent UK links to the attack.

A 24-year-old man from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was arrested on Saturday after posting comments online supporting the slaughter, Greater Manchester Police said.

It came after confirmation a high number of those killed in the attack were foreign nationals from Asian countries.

Police said they were not actively looking for any further suspects but said "that doesn't mean they don't exist".

It was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.