RNA - Brenton Tarrant, 29, a white supremacist, killed 51 worshipers at Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers on March 15 last year.
He opened fire in the packed Al Noor Mosque, then traveled across town to continue the carnage in the suburban Linwood Mosque, while live-streaming his actions on social media.
Shortly before the attack began, an anonymous post on the discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content, including hate speech, said the writer was going to “carry out an attack against the invaders” and included links to a Facebook live stream, in which the footage of the shooting and a manifesto appeared.
He had been scheduled to go on trial in June but changed his plea on Thursday in a court appearance arranged at short notice.
Tarrant appeared in the courtroom via video link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland and admitted to 51 counts of murder, as well as the attempted murder of another 40 people and one terrorism charge.
The two imams of the mosques were allowed to attend the hearing to represent the victims and their families.
The gunman will remain in custody until his scheduled sentencing hearing on May 1.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the guilty plea was a “relief” for families.
“The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15,” Ardern said.
The mosque attacks were New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting. The violence prompted New Zealand’s government to tighten the country’s gun laws and review laws dealing with hate speech.
The development comes as New Zealand is beginning a four-week lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.