Suspect in Christchurch mosque attack to face 50 murder charges, police say

"Other charges are still under consideration," New Zealand police said.

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By Phil Helsel

The suspect accused of carrying out an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month in what has been called a terrorist attack will be charged Friday with 50 counts of murder, authorities said.

New Zealand police said in a statement Thursday that the suspect in the March 15 attack, previously identified as Australian national Brenton Tarrant, will face 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges when he appears in court.

"Other charges are still under consideration," police said.

Brenton Tarrant apprears in Christchurch District Court on March 16 in New Zealand.Mark Mitchell / Pool via Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the attack “one of New Zealand's darkest days,” and less than a week later announced plans to ban nearly all military-style semi-automatic and assault-style rifles.

New Zealand lawmakers on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of new gun restrictions during the first stage of a bill, the Associated Press reported. Only one of 120 lawmakers in Parliament voted against it.

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The vote Tuesday was the first of three that lawmakers must pass before the bill becomes law, according to the AP.

The gunman in the attack appeared to post a lengthy manifesto detailing his white-supremacist worldview.

Ardern has said her office was among more than 30 that received a manifesto minutes before the gunfire began but that there were no specifics that could have been acted upon.

On Thursday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel in a document to a Parliament committee about the gun-control measures included a letter from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, expressing solidarity with the nation and support for the gun bill.

"We want all our New Zealand friends to know we are right behind you and support you all,” Ana Solano, Arvind Greer and Joey Cordover wrote in the letter on behalf of students, including those who attended a youth leadership summit in Christchurch last year, a few months after the mass shooting at the U.S. high school.

"The same way you had our back during our time of sorrow, we have yours," they wrote. "We also wanted to state that we admire you immensely for the quick response in gun control."

Twenty-eight students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School visited New Zealand and Christchurch in July of 2018 to meet with members of the "Student Volunteer Army," which began helping citizens in Christchurch after earthquakes devastated the city, including a 2011 quake that killed 185 people and continued its civic-minded work, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The purpose of that trip to New Zealand was to learn how to keep a youth movement going, the AP reported.

The Florida students planted 17 trees in New Zealand to commemorate the 17 students and staff killed in the Parkland shooting, which occurred when gunman Nikolas Cruz, now 20, allegedly opened fire at the school on Valentine's Day of that year.

Some of the Parkland students on that trip kept in touch with those they met in New Zealand, and

Cruz is facing 17 murder charges for the mass shooting in Florida.