The perpetrator of the attack on two mosques in New Zealand, which killed 51 people last year, did not express any remorse on Monday, while the survivors confronted him in court as they told horrific testimonies about the facts of the attack.
At the opening of the courtroom hearing in Christchurch, prosecutors revealed the chilling details of the carefully planned attack in which far-right attacker Brenton Tarrant wanted to “kill more people than he did”.
In their first direct encounter with the Australian striker, the survivors spoke of how they had to hide under the corpses, forgiveness and coping with the sound of the automatic rifle that still echoed in their ears.
Amid tight security and as snipers were stationed on rooftops in the city center, the court heard how heavily armed Tarrant opened fire on 15 March last year at men, women and children, ignoring pleas for help as he drove his vehicle over one of the bodies during Moving from one mosque to another.
When Mukad saw three-year-old Ibrahim clinging to his father’s leg, Tarrant killed him with “two bullets that were carefully directed,” prosecutor Barnaby Hoys said.
Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murder and terrorism charges after he stormed two mosques in Christchurch, ending his attack when police stopped him while he was on his way to a third mosque.
Lawyers expect the 29-year-old attacker to be the first person sentenced to life in New Zealand without parole.
The accused, dressed in gray prison clothes, remained in the dock surrounded by three police officers, silent and glancing around the hall from time to time, while Hoys gave a frightening summary of the facts.
Hoys said that the accused “admitted that he entered the two mosques with the intention of killing as many people as possible”.
He stated that the defendant “said he wanted to shoot more people and was on his way to another mosque in Ashburton to carry out another attack when he was arrested”.
“During his interrogation, the accused referred to his attacks as ‘terrorist attacks” he continued.
He added, “He also said that the attacks were motivated by his convictions that he intended to spread terror among those he described as” invaders “, including the Muslim population or in general most non-European immigrants.
The 44-year-old Somali refugee, Abida Aziz Ali Jama, saw her brother-in-law Musa al Wali during the shooting, noting that she was still suffering from psychological trauma.
“I see the scenes and I hear the continuous shooting in my head” Jamea said.
Another victim’s son, Ashraf Ali, added, “There are pictures in my memory, the scenes of the bodies around me and the blood everywhere”.
In turn, the Imam of the al Nour Mosque, Jamal Fouda, stated that he was standing at the pulpit and “saw hatred in the eyes of a terrorist who was brainwashed” before telling Tarrant that “there is no need for your hatred”.
The court heard that Tarrant arrived in New Zealand in 2017 and settled in Dunedin (360 kilometers south of Christchurch) where he prepared a batch of high-powered firearms and bought more than 7,000 rounds of ammunition.
Two months before the attack, he came to Christchurch, where he used a drone over the al Nour Mosque and photographed the place and buildings, including entrances and exits, and recorded detailed notes on movement between mosques.
On 15 March 2019, corresponding to Friday, he left his residence in Maunden and headed for Kreights Church, armed with a group of high-powered weapons with references to historical battles and pictures of Crusader figures and recent terrorist attacks and symbols.
He stacked his ammunition in his weapons caches while fixing a camera on his helmet to record the attacks and adjusting fuel containers “to burn mosques and said he wished he had done so,” according to Hoys.
During the minutes preceding the storming of the al Nour Mosque, he sent a 74-page extremist statement to an extremist website, informed his family of what he would be doing, and sent e-mails containing threats to attack mosques to a number of media outlets.
Tarrant represents himself at the trial.
Judge Cameron Mander imposed restrictions on the media to prevent him from using the court as a platform for extremist views.
Mander is expected to announce his judgment on Thursday.