Christchurch, N.Z. (RNS) New Zealand’s Chief Coroner has reopened an inquiry into whether anyone is responsible for an attack on two mosques in which 49 people were killed, in an apparent attack on immigration.
With a packed courtroom and anxious members of the media crammed into the room, Coroner David Crerar said his office is investigating the shootings, as well as whether there are any issues with death certificates.
Crerar’s office said on Thursday (July 5) that the number of survivors of the attacks has increased to 176 from 133.
Although police released the names of the 41 worshippers killed in the first attack, there have been no new details regarding the two attackers.
On Friday, a judge ruled there is no third party involved in the attacks, meaning that police do not have enough evidence to prosecute the attackers, New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff said.
The 22-year-old gunman, identified by the Associated Press as Brenton Tarrant, left the country on Saturday (July 1), but has been in police custody since police first responded to a complaint about reports of gunshots at the Al Noor mosque on Friday at 1:40 p.m. (1540 GMT).
At about 12:50 p.m., about 70 people took shelter in a second Al Noor mosque when a man in a military-style trench coat with an automatic weapon burst in. About 10 minutes later, two gunmen shot people indiscriminately in the Linwood mosque, authorities said.
A third gunman walked to the central city Masjid Al Noor mosque and sprayed worshippers with bullets at about 1:40 p.m.
In addition to Friday’s dead, about 20 were injured, according to police.
Friday’s attacks were one of New Zealand’s deadliest shooting rampages, surpassing the 1989 slaughter of 23 children at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, according to the AP.
The Islamic Association of Christchurch said in a statement that the 40 injured came from 25 countries.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Friday that the nation would observe a minute of silence on Sunday at 1:41 p.m. (1641 GMT), coinciding with the first attack. At a Friday evening rally, she called the killings a “dark and evil act.”
On Thursday, more than 700 mosques opened across New Zealand at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) for the first time in memory of the dead and injured.
New Zealand’s biggest mosque, the Jerusalem Mosque in Auckland, echoed with cries of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” as the worshippers filed into the space. The National Mosque in Wellington similarly opened for the first time in memory of the victims.
“The whole Muslim community and the nation are feeling in pain,” said Hussain Alrashid, a community liaison for Christchurch and Wellington Islamic Communities. “It’s a shock to all the Muslims.”
The victims who survived Saturday’s attacks have not yet been publicly identified. Some news outlets reported that they include two Americans, an Australian and a New Zealander.
At Christchurch Hospital, all but one of the 48 survivors were released on Saturday (July 1), and doctors were examining survivors hospitalized at Christchurch District Hospital, state TV reported.
Eight people remain in intensive care at Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch City Hospital chief executive Simon Bennett said in a statement on Saturday (July 1).
On Sunday, after a weekend to grieve, Sunday service at the Al Noor mosque opened with a moment of silence, prayer and some recitations of Quranic verses. Tributes from around the world were displayed on the walls of the front room.