Two arrested following New Zealand mosque shootings 'not linked to massacre'

Two arrested following New Zealand mosque shootings 'not linked to massacre'
One suspect in the New Zealand mosques massacres has been released.
2 min read
17 March, 2019
50 people were killed in the massacre at two Christchurch mosques on Friday [Getty]

Two people arrested at the time of the twin mosque attacks in New Zealand were not involved in the massacre carried out by Australian extremist Brenton Tarrant, police said on Sunday.

The death toll of Friday’s devastating mass shooting rose to 50 people, AFP reported.

The number of people killed or wounded in the racist shooting represent around 1 in every 500 Muslims in New Zealand, which has a Muslim population of nearly 50,000.

The two people were detained at a police cordon and were carrying firearms, but were not directly involved in the attacks, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

One of the two, a woman, has been released, and a man remains in custody on firearms charges.

"At this moment, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks," he said, referring to Tarrant.

A third man was also arrested on Friday and will appear in court on Monday on charges that are "tangential" to the attacks. The man was not believed to be involved in the shootings, Bush said.

An additional death was discovered as bodies were being removed from the two mosques in the southern city of Christchurch, Bush told reporters.

He said another 36 people remain in hospital after the attack, in which right-wing extremist Brenton Tarrant mowed down worshippers during Friday prayers.

Bush also said that two suspects arrested at a police cordon during the attacks when a firearm was found in their car were not directly involved in Tarrant's assault.

As many as 13 of the victims of the attacks were Arab, with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Palestine saying several of their citizens had been killed and wounded in the shooting.

The grand imam of Egypt's famed Al-Azhar mosque and university, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has condemned the attacks as a "horrific terrorist attack".

The "rising rhetoric of hatred and xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia" were to blame, he said.