New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern comforts Muslims at mosque after Christchurch terror attack
Ardern was snapped hugging mosque-goers at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington and paying her respects to the victims.
Following the mass shootings at the Al-Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers which left 50 dead and at least 50 injured, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that it represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" and termed it "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
The next day, she was pictured at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington comforting those affected by what was the worst mass shooting in the country's history. Greeted by members of the Muslim community on arrival, she was seen hugging several mosque-goers.
She was also snapped placing a wreath in the mosque as a form of tribute to the victims and later seen with finance minister Grant Robertson as they looked on while hundreds of mourners continued to arrive to pay their respects.
The Daily Mail reported that the suspected gunman, Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, may have been influenced in carrying out the attack while he was in Britain, which was one of the many countries he visited during his world tour, and where he was allegedly influenced by far-right groups.
Tarrant started his world tour in 2011 following the death of his father Rodney, and covered North Korea, Japan, India, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, the UK, Pakistan, among other countries in the next seven years.
His grandmother, 81-year-old Marie Fitzgerald, told Nine News that Tarrant was a "normal, happy child" who was a computer enthusiast but that the death of his father changed him. "The media are saying he's planned it for a long time so he's not of sound mind," she said. "It's only since he traveled overseas, I think, that that boy has changed," adding her grandson showed no signs of extremist ideology the last time they talked.
It was a view shared by a woman who claimed she knew him through the gym where he previously worked as a personal trainer. "From the conversations we had about life, he didn't strike me as someone who had any interest in that or extremist views," she said. "But I know he's been traveling since he left Grafton. He has been traveling overseas, anywhere and everywhere."
"I would say it's something in the nature of his travels, something he's been around," she continued. "I know he's been to lots of different countries trying to experience lots of different things in life and I would say something's happened in that time in his travels."
Tarrant, 28, was charged with murder and made his first appearance in court on Saturday. He was snapped smirking and flashing a white supremacist sign and is scheduled to make his next appearance on April 5. His mother and sister have both been placed into police protection after they were interviewed by counter-terrorism police.
Foreign agencies, including Britain's MI5, and the governments of Bulgaria and Turkey, are also said to be investigating Tarrant and how he may have been influenced during his visits to their countries.