Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

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Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is led into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Omar Nabi speaks to the media about losing his father Haji Daoud in the mosque attacks, at the district court in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Title : Members of the media wait at a gate as police and military personnel work at the carpark compound of the district court after Friday's mosque attacks, in Christchurch. (Reuters)
Updated 16 March 2019
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Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

  • Deaths of 49 people in two Christchurch mosques sparks outpouring of grief around the world
  • Attacker enters no plea, is taken into custody until his next court appearance scheduled for April 5

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: 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”.  

 

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The attack led to an outpouring of grief and shock that a white-supremacist fanatic could carry out a terrorist attack on such a scale in a country widely regarded as one of the world's most peaceful.

World leaders and religious figures expressed their sorrow at the killing, which targeted women, children and men as they prayed in their place of worship. The shock was exacerbated by the fact Tarrant livestreamed his actions from a camera mounted to his helmet, sparking anger at social media platforms and the length of time it took them to remove the videos.

Omar Nabi speaks to the media about losing his father Haji Daoud in the mosque attacks, at the district court in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. (Reuters)

The attack was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country raised its security threat level to the highest.

Police said three people were in custody. "Our investigations are in their early stages and we will be looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday promised to reform the country's gun laws. She said the main perpetrator used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which he was legally licensed to own.

"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern told reporters.

The man facing murder charges was an Australian citizen who had spent a lot of time travelling overseas and spent time only sporadically in New Zealand, Ardern said.

None of those arrested had a criminal history or was on any watchlist in New Zealand or Australia.

Among the wounded, two were in a critical condition, including a four-year-old child.

There was a heavy police presence at the hospital where families of the wounded had gathered. Funerals were planned on Saturday for some of the victims, several of whom were born overseas.

A Saudi man, Mohsin Al-Mozaini was among the dead, AlArabiya reported. 

King Salman described the attack as a "heinous massacre" that "underlines the responsibility of the international community to confront the rhetoric of hatred and terrorism."

One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"He had a big gun...He came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.

Facebook said it had deleted the gunman's accounts "shortly after the livestream commenced" after being alerted by police. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all said they had taken steps to remove copies of the videos.

Ardern said she had asked authorities to look into whether there was any activity on social media or elsewhere ahead of the attack that should have triggered a response.
 

City on edge

Christchurch is a city of about 400,000 residents, still recovering from a massive earthquake in 2011 that killed 187 people.

A noisy generator raring from a construction site next to the Christchurch Justice Precinct was a stark and irritating reminder of those tragic events, as media and members of the public gathered awaiting Tarrant’s court appearance.

The city is on edge as helicopters are heard overhead and people are advised to stay indoors. It’s a city in crisis mode yet again, just a few years on from the quakes that rattled Christchurch to its core.

Schools, institutions and workplaces went forced into lockdown for three and half hours on Friday afternoon as police hunted the shooters.

*With Reuters and AFP

 

 


Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

Algerian supporters celebrate in Guillotiere district in Lyon, central eastern France after the victory of their team over Nigeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match, on July 14, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 min 33 sec ago
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Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

  • Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening
  • Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

PARIS: Thousands of extra French police are set to be on duty later Friday in Paris and other major cities following clashes involving Algerian football fans that have touched off a debate about national identity.

Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening with excitement high in France which is home to a huge Algerian-origin population due to the country’s colonial history.

Thousands of people partied in the streets when Algeria won its quarter-final on July 11 and then again for the semifinal on July 14, but the celebrations were later marred by pillaging and street clashes. “I call on people celebrating, even if I understand their joy, to behave themselves,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told a press conference on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe where crowds set off fireworks and flew flags from car windows last Sunday, which was also France’s national Bastille Day.Clashes with police in the early hours, following pillaging the week before, saw more than 200 people arrested, leading to condemnation from the police and government, as well as far-right politicians.

The fact that the semifinal coincided with Bastille Day, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces, irked nationalist politicians in particular who worry about the effects of immigration. “Like lots of French people, I was shocked to see French people take down the French flag and put up the Algerian one,” far-right politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Friday morning.

Dupont-Aignan said the French-born Algeria fans, many of whom have dual nationality, could “go back” to north Africa if their preference was for Algeria. “I want to ask these young people, who are a minority I hope: France has welcomed you, fed you, educated you, looked after you, but if you prefer Algeria, if it’s better than France, go back to Algeria!"

Violence has flared in France in the past after major football games involving Algeria including during World Cup games in 2014, which led far-right leader Marine Le Pen to propose stripping rioters of their French nationality.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” a spokesperson for Le Pen’s National Rally party, Sebastien Chenu, said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria... there are problems.”

A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem copiously booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962 following 130 years of French rule.

The National Rally has called for Algeria fans to be barred from the Champs-Elysees on Friday, a demand dismissed as impractical and unfair by the Paris police force. “For me, the people coming to the Champs-Elysees are joyous citizens,” police chief Lallement told the press conference.

Others have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of fans marked Algeria’s last two victories in the Africa Cup peacefully and that many Franco-Algerians feel free to celebrate the successes of both countries. “We are saddened by the events of July 14,” Faiza Menai from Debout l’Algerie, a collective that unites members of the Algerian diaspora in France, told AFP on Thursday.

She recalled that France had seen six months of violent demonstrations during the so-called “yellow vest” protests against the government, which were supported by Le Pen and other far-right groups. The football violence was caused by not only by Algerians, she said, and was the result of an angry minority living frustrated lives in low-income and neglected suburban areas that ring French cities.

“It’s a pity that there are people who show up just to cause trouble. As in the case of the yellow vests, you have these young guys who missed the point — they come in from the suburbs and take advantage of the situation to get their revenge,” she said.

Her group plans to send out volunteers in florescent orange vests to the Champs Elysees to “try to limit the damage by raising awareness among supporters and lending a hand to authorities.”

Azouz Begag, a novelist and former minister in France’s government in 2005-2007, called on fellow Franco-Algerians to “state again after the match against Senegal that they are in their home in France, that they pay taxes and are voters.“The public spaces of the republic are theirs,” he wrote in Le Monde.