At least 49 killed as gunman livestreams New Zealand mosque ‘terrorist attacks’

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Police attempt to clear people from outside the mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand after the attack. (AP)
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Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Police and ambulance staff help a wounded man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand,on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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A man talks on his mobile phone across the road from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Updated 18 March 2019
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At least 49 killed as gunman livestreams New Zealand mosque ‘terrorist attacks’

  • Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: At least 49 people, including children, were killed, and 50 others critically injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday, which are being described as “terrorist attacks.”

“This is one of New Zealand's darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacidna Ardern. "Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” 

New Zealand police detained three men and a woman, with one of them being charged with murder. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.

One of four people detained in New Zealand after mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch is Australian, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody I have been advised is an Australian-born citizen,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“As family members with our New Zealand cousins today, we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”

Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.

The video, which was cut as it was deemed too graphic, went on to show the shooter gunning down worshippers through the halls of the mosque, before reaching the main prayer hall.

The shooter fired at groups of worshippers huddled on at the corners of the room, as one man attempted to stop the shooter but only succeeded in knocking the gunman down before being shot.

Security officials walk outside the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP/Tessa Burrows)

New Zealand's threat level had been raised to “high” in response to the deadly terror attack.
“We have lifted our threat level from low to high,” Ardern said, adding that three people had been detained who were not on extremist watch lists.
“We have tightened our response from our agencies at the border, at the airports. In fact, at every level, we have a heightened response.”

Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.

Mazhar Syad Ahmed who witnessed the whole tragedy told Arab News: “It was a normal day, I was praying Linwood mosque before we heard the gunshots, I was lucky enough to run to a small store room before the shooter got inside the mosque and started shooting people.”

“I witnessed him from inside the small room, he was wearing full body-armed and he started shooting to kill 10 people before someone jumped on him forcing the shooter to leave his gun and run away, it took almost 10min before the police arrived but the shooter has already escaped, and bodies were thrown all over the mosque. This was one of my worst days ever.”

Mazhar added that “It is a peaceful city, we never had any such incident, people are very friendly and kind toward the Muslims and all other religions.

The New Zealand Herald reported there was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid in suburban Linwood.

A man who lives near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch said many people were dead there. A witness to a second shooting told New Zealand media he saw two wounded people being transported by rescuers afterward.

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque at about 1:45 p.m. and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Read more: Muslim world reacts at New Zealand terrorist attacks on mosque

Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in Peneha’s driveway, and fled.

Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.

This image taken from the alleged shooter's video, which was filmed Friday, March 15, 2019, shows him as he drives and he looks over to three guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. (AP)

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.

“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

Read more: Two Saudi citizens injured in New Zealand terrorist attacks

Mark Nichols told the Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun. Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.

Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere.”

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.

Two Saudi citizens were among those injured in the terrorist attacks on Al Noor mosque in New Zealand’s Christchurch, according to an official statement from the Kingdom’s embassy in Wellington.

Read more: One Jordanian dead, two among those critically injured in New Zealand terrorist attacks

Palestinian sources have indicated that a number of Palestinians were amongst the victims of the New Zealand terrorist attacks. 

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said that one Jordanian was killed and 7 wounded in the New Zealand terrorist attack.

A Jordanian barber identified as Wasseim Alsati and his daughter were among those injured in the attacks. 

The Bangladesh cricket team arrived in Christchurch on Friday to play New Zealand in a third cricket test that was due to start on Saturday but has now been cancelled. 

This image taken from the alleged shooter's video, which was filmed Friday, March 15, 2019, guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. (AP)

"They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message. "They are shaken but good.”

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population, a 2013 census showed.

"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand," Ardern said.

"They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who has perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand."

New Zealand historically has had only a handful of mass shootings events.

Bangladesh team narrowly avoid mosque shooting, test called off

The Bangladesh cricket team narrowly avoided being caught up in the shooting and forced the cancellation of a test match against hosts New Zealand.
The team were on a bus that was approaching the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers on the eve of the third test at nearby Hagley Oval when the shooting began.
Mario Villavarayen, the team's strength and conditioning coach, said it had been a close call.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” he told Reuters via Twitter.
“They are at the ground, they are shaken but good.”
The team were pictured on social media walking back through Hagley Park to the cricket ground and a BCB spokesman later told Reuters the team were in lockdown at their hotel.
“All our players are now safe in their hotel which has been cordoned off,” the spokesman said. “We have advised the players not to step out.
“Importantly, our players are safe.”
New Zealand Cricket said they had chosen to cancel the test, which was the final match of the tour, after discussions with the Bangladesh board.
“I spoke to my counterpart in Bangladesh and we agree it's inappropriate to play cricket at this time,” chief executive David White told TVNZ.
“It's quite unbelievable really. We are shocked.”
White said he had spoken to the liaison officer with the Bangladesh team and the players were “shocked”.
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal said on Twitter the experience had been “frightening”.
“Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” he wrote.
Mushfiqur Rahim, who missed the first two tests through injury, said the team had been fortunate to avoid the shooting.
“We are extremely lucky,” Mushfiqur said. “...never want to see this things happen again....pray for us.”

(With AP, AFP, Reuters)


FBI documents point to Trump role in hush money for porn star Daniels

Updated 32 min 49 sec ago
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FBI documents point to Trump role in hush money for porn star Daniels

NEW YORK: FBI documents unsealed on Thursday suggest that Donald Trump was actively involved in engineering a hush-money payment shortly before the 2016 election to a porn actress who said she had a sexual encounter with him, as his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, campaign team and others scrambled to head off a scandal.
The documents, released on the orders of US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, were used by law enforcement officials to obtain a 2018 search warrant that led to FBI raids on Cohen’s home and office.
The documents provided the most extensive account to date of what appears to be then-candidate Trump’s personal involvement in the scheme to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to avert a controversy for a campaign already reeling from the release of 2005 audio from the TV program “Access Hollywood” in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals.
The documents detailed repeated communications between Trump and Cohen and Hope Hicks, Trump’s presidential campaign press secretary who later became a senior White House official.
The White House and a lawyer for Hicks did not respond to a request for comment on the documents.
Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to violating campaign finance law by directing the payment to Daniels as well as another payment of $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal shortly before the election.
Both women have said they had sexual encounters with Trump more than a decade ago and that the money was meant to buy their silence. Trump has denied the encounters and in 2018 told reporters he knew nothing about a payment to Daniels.
The newly unredacted material includes a 19-page section of the FBI’s search warrant application with the heading: “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme.” It shows Cohen having multiple interactions with Trump and Trump’s campaign staff as Cohen was negotiating the payoff with Daniels’ lawyer and executives of American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper.
A lawyer for AMI did not respond to a request for comment on the documents.
The National Enquirer’s publisher had offered to help Trump by buying rights to unflattering stories and never publishing them.
Before the payoff negotiations began, Cohen spoke on the phone with Trump approximately once a month and rarely had phone contact with Trump’s presidential campaign staff, the search warrant application said. The FBI documents do not provide the content of the calls.
Beginning on Oct. 8, there was a sharp uptick in calls with Trump and his campaign staff. That evening — a month before the election and in the immediate aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” tape that caused a political firestorm and prompted a rare apology from Trump — Hicks, Cohen and Trump held a three-way phone call lasting more than four minutes, the FBI document said.
Over the course of the evening, Cohen had several calls with Hicks, AMI President David Pecker, a friend of Trump, and Dylan Howard, AMI’s chief content officer, before calling Trump back for eight minutes. The FBI documents do not provide the content of the calls.
Later that evening, Howard then sent Cohen a text message: “Keith will do it,” the message said, in an apparent reference to Keith Davidson, a lawyer for Daniels who would end up receiving the $130,000 payment for Daniels from Cohen later that month. “Let’s reconvene tomorrow.”
The next day, Howard connected Cohen and Davidson in a text message to begin the payoff negotiations, the document stated.
Hicks testified before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee earlier this year that she was never present for any discussion during the campaign between Trump and Cohen about Daniels.
The chairman of the House judiciary panel, Jerrold Nadler, in a letter to Hicks released publicly on Thursday, demanded that she return to Capitol Hill before Aug. 15 to explain the inconsistencies in her testimony.

‘Inescapable conclusion’
Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the documents demonstrate Trump was “intimately involved in devising and executing a corrupt scheme” to keep the Daniels matter secret.
“The inescapable conclusion from all of the public materials available now,” Schiff added, “is that there was ample evidence to charge Donald Trump with the same criminal election law violations for which Michael Cohen pled guilty and is now serving time in prison.”
The documents show that Hicks spoke with Cohen several times about the importance of keeping the Daniels and McDougal stories from “gaining national traction.”
Not long after the Wall Street Journal published an article online four days before the Nov. 8 election, the documents showed Cohen sent a text message to Hicks saying the article was getting “little to no traction,” prompting her to respond: “Same. Keep praying!! It’s working!“
On the same day as that text, Howard texted Cohen about the Wall Street Journal story, saying, “I think it’ll be ok pal. I think it’ll fade into the distance,” the documents showed. Cohen responded, “He’s pissed,” an apparent reference to Trump, according to the documents.
Cohen, who was once Trump’s self-described “fixer,” began serving a three-year prison sentence in May for his campaign finance violations and other crimes, including making false statements to a bank and tax evasion.
In a statement released from prison on Thursday, Cohen reiterated his previous comments about Trump’s central role in the hush money scheme, referring to the president’s company in saying, “I and members of The Trump Organization were directed by Mr. Trump to handle the Stormy Daniels matter; including making the hush money payment.”
Cohen pleaded guilty last November to separate charges brought by the office of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the extent of contacts between Trump and Russians during the campaign.
The judge on Wednesday said there was no reason to keep the documents secret after prosecutors told him that their investigation into the payments had ended.