Daily US Times: The man who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019 had plans to target a third mosque, his sentencing hearing has heard.
Brenton Tarrant also planned to burn down the mosques and wanted to “inflict as many fatalities as possible”.
The 29-year-old Australian national has pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 attempted murders, and one charge of terrorism.
Tarrant faces life in prison, possibly without parole – a sentence never before imposed in New Zealand.
The gunman streamed part of the attacks live online, saw him open fire at two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March last year.
He first drove to the Al Noor mosque, firing on people taking part in Friday prayers. He then drove about 3 miles (5 km) to the Linwood mosque and killed more people.
The attack sent shockwaves across the world and prompted New Zealand to make swift changes to its gun laws.
How did the attack unfold?
The sentencing hearing began on Monday morning in Christchurch and will last four days.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the main court room is relatively empty. Hundreds will watch the proceedings on video streaming from other courtrooms in the city to allow for social distancing measures.
He was dressed in grey prison clothes during the hearing and surrounded in the dock by three police officers, the gunman reportedly remained silent, occasionally looking around the room where relatives of the victims ans survivors were sitting.
Barnaby Hawes, the crown prosecutor, told the court that the gunman had began formulating a plan years earlier, and his goal was to “inflict as many fatalities as possible”.
He gathered information about mosques in New Zealand – studying locations, floor plans and further details – with the aim of targeting them at the time they would be busiest.
In the months before the attack, he went to Christchurch and flew a drone over his primary target, the Al Noor mosque.
Mr Tarrant also planned to target the Ashburton Mosque in addition to the Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre.
The court heard that on the day of the attack, he shot people on the street as they tried to escape the Al Noor mosque. This included one victim, Ansi Alibava, whose body he drove over as he left the mosque.
Tarrant faces a minimum sentence of 17 years, but Justice Cameron Mander, the High Court judge presiding over the case, has the power to sentence the gunman to a full life term with no parole – a sentence never before imposed in New Zealand.
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