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Christchurch attacks: Mosque shooting suspect pleads guilty to terrorism and murder charges

In New Zealand court, Brenton Tarrant admits guilt in 51 counts of murder, 39 counts of attempted murder and terrorism charges
Tarrant had previously pleaded not guilty to charges (AFP)

The gunman accused of last year's Christchurch terror attacks, which left more than 50 people dead, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of murder, attempted murder and engaging in acts of terrorism.

Appearing in a New Zealand court via video-link, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, was charged with the attacks and faced 51 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder, along with terrorism charges.

Tarrant had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The open wounds of Christchurch
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Fifty-one worshipers were killed on 15 March at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year. More than 40 were seriously wounded.

The attack was carried out by a lone gunman armed with assault rifles and shotguns, dressed in camouflage gear.

He drove between both mosques during Friday prayer services and opened fire indiscriminately on the people inside.

He also streamed the killings on social media, where they were watched live by about 400 people, then shared widely across the internet before being shut down.

A manifesto posted to the 8chan internet forum hours before the attack outlined a desire to strike at the heart of a tiny Muslim community on the edge of the world, in order to send a message globally.

In Trenton's manifesto, he said his inspiration came from another far-right terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, who was responsible for the 2011 attacks in Norway that left 77 people dead. Breivik created a manifesto as well, in which he said that Muslims were taking over Europe.

Trenton's manifesto is said to have inspired other mass shootings by white supremacists. A lone gunman who shot and killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, was said to have released a manifesto in which he mentioned Trenton.

On one of the gunman's rifles, he painted the names of far-right shooters who had also targeted minority groups in other countries.

The terrorist attack was the worst act of violence New Zealand had witnessed since its colonial land wars, and was also one of the worst mass shootings in world history.

It devastated the minority Muslim community in New Zealand and created wounds that are still open for many today, both in New Zealand and around the world.

Muslim leaders condemned the attacks, with some blaming politicians and media outlets for boosting Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as a global rise in white supremacy.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who garnered international praise for her response, attended a joint prayer earlier this month held between both affected mosques, to mark the one year anniversary of the shootings.

After the Christchurch shootings, Islamophobic attacks in the UK increased by 593 percent.

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