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Christchurch shootings: Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to 51 murders

A man accused of deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pl..

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A man accused of deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder.

Brenton Tarrant, 29, also admitted the attempted murder of another 40 people, and one terrorism charge.

He had previously denied the charges and was due to go on trial in June.

The gun attacks at two mosques sent shockwaves around the world. In the wake of the killings, New Zealand brought in stricter gun laws.

New Zealand is in a state of lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak and the plea was made at a scaled-down court hearing in Christchurch High Court on Thursday.

No members of the public were allowed in to the hearing and Tarrant, from New South Wales, Australia, and his lawyers appeared via video link.

A representative of the two mosques that were attacked was allowed to attend the hearing to represent the victims and their families.

Judge Justice Cameron Mander said: "It is regrettable that the Covid-19 restrictions that presently apply do not permit victims and their families to travel to be present in the courtroom when the defendant entered his pleas of guilty."

Sentencing on the 92 charges will take place at a date yet to be set. Tarrant was remanded in custody until 1 May when the court hopes to be able to set a sentencing date.

Justice Mander added: "There is no intention to sentence the defendant before the court returns to its normal operations and at a time when the victims and their families can attend court in person."

Farid Ahmed, who lost his wife Husna in the attack on Al Noor Mosque (Masjid An-Nur), told TVNZ that many would be relieved they did not have to go through the trial, but others would feel very sad, still thinking about their loved ones.

Speaking of the gunman, he said: "I have been praying for him and he has taken the right direction. I am pleased he is feeling guilty, it is a good start."

Surprise guilty plea avoids painful trial

Analysis by Simon Atkinson, BBC News

Minutes after Brenton Tarrant changed his plea, families of mosque attack victims began finding out on the rumour mill.

And to everyone it seems to have been a huge shock and surprise.

I was in Christchurch just a couple of weeks ago for the first anniversary of the attacks. The trial looming in early June was something many told me they were dreading.

Witnesses being forced to revisit what happened; graphic CCTV and the head-mounted camera of the attacker being played frame by frame.

But a few said they were – in a way – looking forward to it, to seeing justice being done. It gave them a focus.

One father told me he had learned that his son's actions in Al Noor Mosque had been heroic. He had wanted to see and hear that in court for himself – and for the world to see and hear it.

People like him will no longer have the opportunity to get that level of detail to what happened to their loved ones.

And, because of the Covid-19 lockdown, they did not even get the chance to hear the guilty pleas in person.

But not having a trial takes away one real fear: that Tarrant would use the occasion as a platform to push his right-wing agenda of hate, something the justice system, the media and most importantly the Muslim community were desperate to avoid.

How did the attacks unfold?

The shootings on 15 March 2019 began when the gunman drove to the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, entered the building and began shooting.

Less than 30 seconds later, he returned to his car, picked up another weapon, then re-entered the mosque and resumed his attack.

Footage from a headcam he was wearing showed him pass from room to room, killing as he went. The shootings were broadcast on Facebook Live.

He then drove to the Linwood mosque where he shot two people outside and then shot at the windows.

A man from inside the mosque came outside, picked up one of the attacker's shotguns, and chased him away.

Two police officers then chased and arrested the suspect.

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Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.

The inoculations were administered by a household doctor at Windsor Castle, a royal source said.
To prevent inaccuracies and further speculation, Her Majesty, who 94, decided that she would let it be known that she has had the vaccination, the source added. Her husband is 99 years old.
The couple’s son, Prince Charles, tested positive for coronavirus and went into isolation in March. The 72-year-old later said he was lucky to only experience mild symptoms, adding he’d “got away with it quite lightly.”
Meanwhile, their grandson Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year, UK media reported, though exactly when he contracted the virus is unclear.
The UK has recorded more than 3 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 80,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University on Saturday.
The UK reported 1,325 coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday — its highest ever daily increase in deaths.
Health officials face a deadly start to 2021 as a new coronavirus variant, first detected in the UK, sweeps the nation.
In the capital, London’s mayor declared a “major incident” on Friday, warning that hospitals in the city were close to being overrun.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan added. “If we do not take immediate action now, our [National Health Service] could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger

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Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.

The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.

“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”

It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.

Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.

The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.

Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.

On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/03/dozens-killed-in-suspected-jihadist-attack-in-niger

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Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections

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People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.

The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.

He’s focussing on security and education.

Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.

“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.

Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.

Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/27/niger-votes-in-presidential-and-legislative-elections

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