The day peaceful, welcoming New Zealand lost its soul

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People write on a sign at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the mosque attacks, near a police line outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
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Police stand by makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019, where one of the two mass shootings occurred. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Police officers stand guard in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Police corden off the areas close to the mosque after a gunman filmed himself firing at worshippers inside in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. A gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque during afternoon prayers, causing multiple fatalities. (AFP)
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Police officers secure the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2019

The day peaceful, welcoming New Zealand lost its soul

  • NZ legal procedures mean it might take several days for the bodies to be removed from the mosque
  • Police, who are not armed while on normal duty, had few details of how the attack was coordinated

CHRISTCHURCH: When Brenton Tarrant walked into Al-Noor mosque and opened fire, it was if a whole nation’s soul died.
“The worst of the world has visited our shores, and we’ll never be the same again,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said.
He spoke for New Zealand’s 4.9 million people, avowedly multicultural and welcoming.
There are about 60,000 Muslims in New Zealand, mostly ethnic Indians from Fiji, attracting little attention in a country of 200 ethnicities and 160 languages. Most of the victims of Friday’s terrorist attack were from Fiji’s islands, but there were also Afghans, and Muslims from Turkey and Somalia.
There was anger on social media that the attack appeared to have come as such a surprise to the security services. New Zealand police, who are not armed while on normal duty, had few details of how the attack was coordinated.
When Tarrant’s live video footage of his attack emerged on Facebook, authorities quickly —and mostly successfully — appealed to people not to share it on social media. New Zealanders quickly rejected a rambling, ranting manifesto posted by Tarrant. It was given little space and was mostly dismissed.
One prominent security analyst, Paul Buchanan, director of 36th Parallel Assessments, said the focus of New Zealand’s intelligence and security services had been on the threat from Islamist extremism, and limited resources meant they had neglected the threat from other sources.
Right-wing extremists have been visible and vocal in Christchurch recently. Terrible as Friday’s attack was, it was not surprising, Buchanan said, and Tarrant’s manifesto was “straight out of the white supremacist playbook.”
During the attack, police issued an urgent nationwide appeal to all Muslims to stay at home and to close all mosques. Armed police were posted quickly outside most city mosques.
Mulki Abdiwahab had been praying in a mosque with her mother when she heard gunshots. “I didn’t know what it was,” she said, “I’d never heard a gunshot, ever. I thought at first it must have been somebody banging on the window.
“My mum grabbed my hand and then we just we ran outside. Everyone was in chaos, just running for their lives. We just kept running, and running. The gunshots kept going on for about a good 10 minutes.”




People write on a sign at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the mosque attacks, near a police line outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

Idris Khairuddin said prayers were just about to begin when he heard gunshots. His uncle Tamizi was one of six people he knew who was shot. “The gunshots sounded like pop, pop, pop,” he said. “I heard over 50.”
Carl Pomare, who had been driving past the mosque as the attack began, saw people running, and saw a five-year-old girl shot. “We looked at it thinking, we’ve got to get this little girl to the hospital now otherwise she’s going to die,” he said. “It was a pretty scary situation because there were still other shots being fired at the time inside the mosque.”
New Zealand legal procedures mean it is likely to be several days before the bodies of the victims are removed from the mosque. Identification is likely to take several days.
Friday’s terrorist attack was the worst in New Zealand history. The last was in 1985 when French secret agents blew up a ship in Auckland harbor, killing one person.
Christchurch has only recently recovered from a series of severe earthquakes, including one in 2011 that killed 187 people.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.