Asia News Network
At least forty-nine people were killed and dozens injured in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand’s second-largest city of Christchurch on Friday (March 15) in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a well-planned terror attack, forcing the government to place the country on its highest security threat level, the Straits Times reported.
Police said all mosques in the country have been asked to close their doors. Christchurch was also initially placed under lockdown.
Ms Ardern said Friday was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
“This can only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ms Ardern said at here televised press conference on Friday. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”
“Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed,” she added.
“We have lifted our threat level from low to high. We have tightened our response from our agencies at the border, at the airports. In fact, at every level, we have a heightened response.”
She said three people in police custody held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlist. “While we do not have anything to believe at this stage that there were any other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage”.
Police commissioner Mike Bush says the number of people killed has increased to 49 – the authorities had said earlier put the toll at 40.
A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow. Mr Bush declined to identify the man.
Six Indonesians were praying at Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, when a gunman opened fire on worshipers on Friday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry has said.
Three Indonesian men were able to escape the shooting, but the whereabouts of the other three remain unknown, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said in Jakarta on Friday, according to The Jakarta Post.
The minister has been coordinating with Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Tantowi Yahya to monitor the situation.
“A team from the embassy has been dispatched to Christchurch to seek information on our people who happened to be in the mosque, particularly the three who still cannot be contacted, ” she said.
She added that the shooting occurred at 13:40 local time when Muslim men were performing Friday prayers at the mosque.
Indonesian religious organizations have called on the people of Indonesia, which is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, to avoid provocation and refrain from sharing online footage of terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“The government must ensure that the terrorism incidents in New Zealand do not [create tensions] in Indonesia and weaken national unity,” the deputy chairman of Muhammadiyah’s law and human rights division, Maneger Nasution, said.
The PGI asked Indonesians not to share videos of the shootings, saying that doing so would only help the terrorists.
“We hope that Indonesians, wherever they are, are not provoked by the videos and photos that are meant to spread terror,” PGI spokesperson Irma Riana Simanjuntak said.
“Whoever the shooters are, they are the enemies of religions and humanity. They deserve to be severely punished. Local authorities should investigate the perpetrators behind the attacks,” Maneger said.
Two Malaysians were injured in the mosque massacre in New Zealand and are being treated in hospital, confirms the Foreign Ministry, while local media reports one is still missing, according to the Star Online.
The Malaysian High Commission in Wellington confirmed that the injured Malaysians were undergoing treatment in hospital.
The official Facebook account of the Malaysian High Commissioner to New Zealand carried a post advising Malaysians living in New Zealand, especially Christchurch, to check whether any of their family members or friends had been injured in the shootings.
Three persons of Bangladesh origin have been confirmed dead so far and four others injured in the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand today. Shafiqur Rahman, consul general of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star over phone that apart from the casualties, several other Bangladeshis are missing.
The deceased were identified as Dr Abdus Samad, his wife (unnamed as of yet), and another Hosne Ara Farid, Consul General Rahman said.
Bangladesh High Commission directly and through the consul in Auckland disseminated message to Bangladeshis and diaspora living in New Zealand and Christchurch to remain calm, be indoor, avoid places of congregation and to obey the instructions of law enforcers.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said, in a statement, after the attacks that they may be due to increased Islamaphobia around the world.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” Khan said. “This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles.”
Khan added that the attacks “reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families.”
First Mass Shooting Since 1990
There hasn’t been a mass shooting in New Zealand since 1990, when a man killed 13 people, including two six-year-olds, after a dispute with his neighbour in the seaside town of Aramoana, the New York Times said.
That shooting led to tightened gun laws, including restrictions on “military style semi-automatic weapons”, according to the report.
Gun owners must be licensed, a process that includes a review of criminal activity and mental health, attendance at a safety programme, an explanation of how the gun would be used, a residence visit to ensure secure storage, and testimonials from relatives and friends.
Homicides are rare in New Zealand, and gun deaths even rarer. There were 35 homicides countrywide in 2017.
Since 2007, gun homicides have been in the single digits each year except 2009, when there were 11.
But there are plenty of guns. There were 1.2 million registered firearms in a country of 4.6 million people in 2017, according to the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss non-profit.