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49 dead in terror attack on New Zealand mosques

March 15, 2019

1490666-1205777303CHRISTCHURCH (AFP) – Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead Friday, with one gunman — identified as an Australian extremist — apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city.

In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying it marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned,” she said, adding that in addition to the dead another 20 people were seriously injured.

The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved, but Ardern said three men had been taken into custody.

Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.

A Palestinian man who was in one of the mosques said he saw someone being shot in the head.

“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds it started again. It must have been an automatic — no one could pull a trigger that quick,” the man, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.

482550_53226172“Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood,” he said, adding that he joined the fleeing crowd and managed to escape.

Video and documents circulating online — but not officially confirmed — suggested the shooter had streamed his attack on Facebook Live.

AFP has examined the footage, which has subsequently been taken down. Journalists experienced in verification techniques said it appeared to be genuine.

New Zealand police described it as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.

A manifesto had also been posted online on accounts linked to the same Facebook page, suggesting the attack was racially motivated.

A number of pictures were posted to a social media account of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.

Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes.


‘Darkest day’


An ashen-faced Ardern told reporters the attacks had been “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”.

“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” she said.

Forty-one of those slain were at the Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch, police said. Seven more were killed at the Linwood Ave mosque, three of them outside the building. It is unclear where the remaining victim died.

mosque 3(1)The two mosques are about five kilometres apart. It was not clear if the same gunman was involved at both sites.

One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying when he heard shooting — and then saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.

Another man said he saw children being shot.

“There were bodies all over,” he said.

An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand that he heard shots fired and four people were lying on the ground, with “blood everywhere”.

Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand”. Friday is Islam’s holy day.

Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally nearby.

The Bangladesh cricket team — which had been in Christchurch for a test match against New Zealand that was later cancelled — all escaped without injury.

A spokesman said the attack happened as some of players got off a team bus and were about to enter the mosque.

“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” he told AFP.

Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally ill man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.

However, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.

Christchurch, a relatively small city in the south of New Zealand, hit global headlines in 2011 when it was struck by a deadly earthquake.

Dozens of people died and the city’s historic cathedral was toppled in the disaster.

New Zealand mosque killings spark global horror

PARIS (AFP) – Attacks on two mosques in New Zealand which left at least 49 people dead on Friday have sparked horror, revulsion and dismay around the world.

One of the gunmen – believed to be an Australian extremist — apparently livestreamed the deadly assault.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Here is a summary of the main international reactions so far.

Muslims face ‘mass killing’

“With this attack, hostility towards Muslims that the world has been has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond the boundaries of individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one.”

Cruel, cynical attack

“An attack against peaceful people gathering for prayer is shocking in its cruelty and cynicism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

“I hope that those involved will be severely punished,” he said in a message to Arden.

‘Harrowing news’

“Harrowing news from New Zealand overnight” said EU Council president Donald Tusk. “The brutal attack… will never diminish the tolerance and decency that New Zealand is famous for.”

‘Sickening act of violence’

British Prime Minister Theresa May offered deepest condolences “after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence.”

Brutal crimes

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country was “profoundly affected by the brutal crimes in Christchurch”.

‘Fanatics want to destroy society’

Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez said his thoughts were with the victims, families and government of New Zealand after attacks by “fanatics and extremists who want to destroy our societies”.

 

 


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