New Zealand mosque attack suspect in court

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AFP) – The right-wing extremist charged over the horrifying attacks on New Zealand mosques appeared in court yesterday, while a shellshocked community began digging graves for the 49 people he stands accused of slaying.

Australia-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant stood largely impassive in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison smock, as the judge read the first of what are expected to be a host of murder charges he is likely to face.

He did not request bail and was remanded in custody until an April 5 court appearance.

Outside the courtroom, Christchurch residents struggled to deal with the aftermath  of what is thought to be the worst act of terror against Muslims in the West.

Nearby, excavators were called in to remove the vast amount of earth needed to bury the dead, although police have not yet released the bodies to anxious families.

In a nearby hospital, doctors worked round the clock to treat 39 people for gunshot wounds and other injuries sustained in the attacks.

The wounded included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who was in critical condition.

The attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in this usually peaceful country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.

Throughout the day people laid flowers at a makeshift memorial just beyond the police cordon around the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died.

Many offerings were accompanied by handwritten letters laden with sadness and disbelief, from residents of what one local driver called the “city of sorrow”.

“I am so sorry that you were not safe here. Our hearts are breaking for your loss,” read one of the notes.