Worst act of terrorism: 10 Pakistanis, 5 Indians among 50 martyrs in attacks on 2 NZ mosques

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Nation special report

CHRISTCHURCH: In a worst act of terrorism in recent history, 10 Pakistanis, 5 Indians among 50 Muslims including 10 Pakistanis and 5 Indians in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, in a phone call with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, expressed his admiration for the humane way that the Christchurch terror attack was handled by New Zealand authorities.

Prime Minister Khan also extended an invitation to his counterpart to visit Pakistan. During the phone call, the prime minister appreciated the quick response of local New Zealand authorities and the high level of respect shown by Prime Minister Ardern for Muslims.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, speaks to representatives of the Muslim community, Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. New Zealand’s prime minister says the “primary perpetrator” in the killing of at least 49 people in two Christchurch mosques was living in Dunedin, a seaside city south of Christchurch.(Lucy Bennett/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The premier said that he was calling Ardern on behalf of the people of Pakistan to thank her for her compassion, leadership and decisions, which have won her many admirers in Pakistan.

The prime minister also conveyed his condolences over the loss of 50 lives in the attack. He said that Pakistan stands by the government and people of New Zealand in this hour of grief.

Ardern said that New Zealand was in shock after the incident and told PM Khan about immediate action taken after the attack, including the banning of all military style semi and automatic guns and assault riffles.

She also acknowledged the sacrifices of Pakistanis in the attack, particularly the bravery and valour of Naeem Rasheed — the man who lost his life trying to snatch a weapon away from the shooter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad confirmed the deaths of six victims as follows:

Sohail Shahid

Syed Jahandad Ali (Lahore)

Syed Areeb Ahmed (Karachi)

Mahboob Haroon (Islamabad)

Naeem Rashid (Abbotabad)

Talha Naeem (Abbotabad)

Tough measures:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday an immediate ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons like the ones used in the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 worshippers.

The man charged in the attack had purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase”, she said adding; “Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned”.

Ardern’s announcement comes less than a week after the killings, as more of the dead were being buried. At least six funerals took place on Thursday, including for a teenager, a youth soccer coach and a Muslim convert who loved connecting with other women at the mosque.

Jacinda Ardern has comforted members of the Muslim community during a visit to a refugee centre in Christchurch following Friday’s mosque attacks.

A tearful Ardern said she brought messages of love, support and grief on behalf of all New Zealanders to the crowd gathered at Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resources Centre. “New Zealand is united in grief,” she said. 

“This is not New Zealand. The only part of the incident we have seen over the past 24 to 36 hours that is New Zealand – is the support that you are seeing now.”

At the centre, where she was joined by ministers and other politicians, she was asked for assurance around security and arrangements for mosques. She was told there was “a fear in the community” from people who just wanted to safely celebrate culture and worship. This is not Christchurch, this is not the New Zealand we know, she was told.

Accused arrested

The culprit, an Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, was run off the road and arrested by police while he was believed to be on his way to a third target. He had livestreamed the attack on Facebook and said in his manifesto he planned to attack three mosques.

Tarrant, 28, is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support.

The Australian man, Tarrant, live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away. He also published a racist ‘manifesto’ on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being “displaced” by immigrants and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings.

His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, entered no plea when he appeared on Saturday morning in a Christchurch court charged with murder after a terrorist attack on two mosques in the city. Dressed in a white prison tunic, handcuffed and flanked by two police officers, Tarrant stood passively in the dock. At one point he gazed around at the courtroom, which was packed with media.

The judge had cleared members of the public from the court for safety reasons. Tarrant said nothing, entered no plea to the charge and did not apply to have his name withheld. 

He appeared in court a day after the shootings at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid mosques. At least 49 people were killed, while dozens more were injured. 

Judge Paul Kellar said although Tarrant was facing only one murder charge, it was “reasonable to assume there will be other charges”.

Funeral prayer

Meanwhile, preparations were underway for a massive Friday prayer service to be led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where worshippers were killed.

Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at the Friday’s prayer service, including many who have come from abroad. He expects it will take place in Hagley Park, a city landmark across from Al Noor mosque with members of the Linwood mosque also attending.

Al Noor workers have been trying feverishly to repair the destruction at the mosque, Fouda said. “They will bury the carpet,” he said. “Because it is full of blood, and it’s contaminated.” Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.

Facebook under pressure

Facebook is facing pressure from New Zealand’s advertising industry and the country’s Privacy Commissioner for its role in distributing footage of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The attacks, which killed 50 people, were live-streamed for almost 17 minutes on Facebook. the attack on two Christchurch mosques.

“Our concern as an industry is that live-streaming of these events becomes the new normal,” said Paul Head, chief executive of New Zealand’s Commercial Communications Council, which represents the country’s advertising agencies.

“We’re asking all of the platforms… to take immediate steps to either put in place systems, processes, algorithms or artificial intelligence that stops this kind of event,” he said.

BD team escaped

Bangladesh s cricket team escaped unscathed after a shooting at a mosque in central Christchurch. Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus said most of the team were bussed to the mosque and were about to go inside when the incident happened. “They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel he told media.