New Zealand mosque terror attacks

By Steve George, Joshua Berlinger, Hilary Whiteman, Harmeet Kaur, Ben Westcott and Meg Wagner, CNN
3:38 p.m. ET, March 19, 2019
1:14 a.m. ET, March 17, 2019

1.5 million videos of the attack removed from Facebook within 24 hours

Facebook has said it continues to works "around the clock" to remove videos of the incident shared on its platform.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, the US-based tech company said that within 24 hours of Friday’s shooting it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from its platform globally.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have struggled to halt the spread of horrific footage of the shooting, which was broadcast live on Facebook and subsequently shared widely online.

In a press conference Sunday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden addressed the issue of the video and said it was up to online platforms to take responsibility.

"This issue goes beyond New Zealand, but that doesn't mean we cant play an active role in getting this resolved," said Arden.

Arden also acknowledged she had spoken directly with Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, in regards to the video.

4:23 a.m. ET, March 17, 2019

34 patients remain in Christchurch Hospital

A total of 34 patients injured in Friday's attacks remain in Christchurch Hospital, including 12 people in intensive care.

In a statement, Sunday, Chief Executive of Canterbury District Health Board David Meates said that two patients had been discharged late on Saturday, and a further two are expected to be well enough to return home on Sunday.

"There are currently 12 people in intensive care in a critical condition. We expect a small number of these people to be well enough to transfer to other wards later today," said Meates.

"There is also one 4-year-old girl in Starship Hospital in Auckland in a critical condition. She was transferred from Christchurch to Auckland on Saturday 16 March," he added.

"Today we are running seven acute theaters which is more than we would usually have operating on a Sunday -- we would usually have three operating theaters running," said Meates.

"Many of these people need multiple surgeries due to the complex nature of their injuries, and the need to provide a number of shorter surgeries in a phased way so patients have the best chance of recovery."

12:43 a.m. ET, March 17, 2019

Chief coroner: "Nothing worse than giving the wrong body to the wrong family"

New Zealand Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall has spoken of the difficulties faced by authorities in correctly identifying the bodies of the victims of Friday's terror attack.

"There could be nothing worse than giving the wrong body to the wrong family," said Marshall. "This is not going to happen here."

Speaking at a press conference alongside deputy Police Chief Wally Haumaha, on Sunday, Marshall confirmed that the formal identification process has now begun.

"The process involves a CT scan, fingerprints, property and clothing is photographed, dental records are examined and then post-mortem examination," said Marshall.

"We started the post-mortems this morning. We understand that later on tonight we may be releasing the first body," added Marshall.

The body of the 50th victim was discovered at the Al Noor mosque, where most victims were killed, when officials were removing the victims' bodies on Saturday.

12:04 a.m. ET, March 17, 2019

New Zealand PM's office received shooter's "manifesto" minutes before attack

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has confirmed that her office received a copy of the suspected Christchurch shooter's so-called “manifesto” minutes before the first attack began.

"I was one of more than 30 recipients of a manifesto that was mailed out 9 minutes before the attack took place," said Arden.

"It did not include a location, it did not contain specific details, it was conveyed to parliamentary security within two minutes of receipt."

The 87-page document, also posted on social media before the shooting, was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim screeds. Authorities have so far declined to discuss potential motives for the attack.

You can read more about the document's white supremacist reference points here.

11:52 p.m. ET, March 16, 2019

New Zealand PM: "There will be changes to our gun laws"

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that her country's gun laws will change in the wake of Friday's terror attack.

"I've already indicated there will be changes to our gun laws. This will be discussed in cabinet tomorrow," said Arden during a press conference in Wellington, Sunday.

Until Friday, the biggest massacre in New Zealand's history occurred 30 years ago, when a man named David Gray went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 people.

Following that attack, the nation's gun laws -- which were first passed in 1983 -- came under scrutiny. The ensuing debate led to a 1992 amendment on the regulation of military-style semi-automatic firearms.

Despite those laws, New Zealand's weapons legislation is considered more relaxed than most Western countries outside of the USA. Gun owners do need a license but they aren't required to register their guns -- unlike in neighboring Australia.

While authorities do not know exactly how many legally or illegally owned firearms are currently in circulation in New Zealand, estimates put the number at about 1.2 million, according to New Zealand Police. This figure equates to about one gun for every three people -- a rate that is considered high when compared with Australia, which has 3.15 million guns, approximately one for every eight people.

Addressing the current gun laws, Arden said that change was required "regardless of activity that may have happened with gun retailers, they need to change."

Arden said she would provide more detail as to those possible changes to firearms legislation following more detailed discussion with her cabinet Monday.

11:29 p.m. ET, March 16, 2019

New Zealand PM: "All bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday"

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks Sunday about the Christchurch terror attack.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that the bodies of a small number of victims will be returned to families on Sunday evening, and all bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Wellington, Sunday, Arden confirmed that her cabinet would meet Monday to discuss government policy including changes to the country's gun laws, issues around terror watch lists and how to ensure public safety.

Arden said that a memorial for the Christchurch victims would be held in Parliament on Tuesday.

10:26 p.m. ET, March 16, 2019

Police working to identify victims

New Zealand police have described efforts to identify the victims as "detailed and complex work" that must be "completed thoroughly."

In a statement posted online, Sunday, police said officers were continuing to work "closely and extensively with partners to identify the injured and deceased victims of the Christchurch attack.”

The statement added that a range of activities must be completed before names can be released publicly, “this includes next of kin notifications, which, in many cases, will have international aspects to them.”

Police officials said they understand the religious duty of the Islamic faith to bury the deceased as soon as possible and are “working closely with the Chief Coroner to do everything possible to expedite the process.”

10:21 p.m. ET, March 16, 2019

How the attack unfolded

People stand across the road from one of the mosques attacked in central Christchurch on Friday.

Friday's terror attack in New Zealand was one of the deadliest in the country's history. At least 50 people were killed and another 50 wounded when a gunman, who police have identified as 28-year-old Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant, open-fired inside a pair of mosques in the city of Christchurch.

The terror attack in New Zealand Friday began at about 1:40 p.m, unleashing horrific scenes of violence that the gunman attempted to live-stream on social media.

CNN's coverage of the initial aftermath of the shooting can be found here.