Australian police search homes near mosque suspect’s hometown

This photo taken on March 17, 2019 shows local residents from different faiths paying their respects for the Christchurch mosques victims after placing flowers during an Open Day at Preston mosque in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Australian police search homes near mosque suspect’s hometown

  • New Zealand, a country that has traditionally had very low homicide rates, has been placed on its highest security threat level after its worst peacetime mass killing

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON: Australian police have searched two homes in towns on the New South Wales (NSW) mid-north coast linked to the investigation into Friday’s mass shootings at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Police said that a search warrant was executed on Monday morning by the state’s Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) at a home in the town of Sandy Beach, near Coffs Harbor, and shortly after another warrant was executed at a home in Lawrence, near Maclean.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and NSW Police declined to identify the owners of the homes.
“The primary aim of the activity is to formally obtain material that may assist New Zealand Police in their ongoing investigation,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
They said the family of the Australian man arrested in Christchurch over the shootings were assisting police.
Australian media said one of the homes belonged to the sister of suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who was charged in New Zealand with murder on Saturday.
Tarrant, who formerly lived in Grafton in the same region where the police searches took place, has been remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.
New Zealand, a country that has traditionally had very low homicide rates, has been placed on its highest security threat level after its worst peacetime mass killing. Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack at two mosques.

AUSTRALIA ASSESSES THREAT
Australia is currently assessing risk posed by right-wing extremism and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Monday chair a meeting of the national security committee, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Morrison will be briefed by Duncan Lewis, head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, and AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on the local response to the mass shooting, the source said.
The likelihood of an Australian terror attack remains at “probable,” the midpoint of a five-level terror threat ranking that was introduced in 2015.


Morocco tourist murder trial to open on May 2

Updated 19 min 55 sec ago
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Morocco tourist murder trial to open on May 2

  • The bodies of the victims were found on High Atlas mountains
  • Official said four of the prosecuted appeared in videos pledging allegiance to Daesh

RABAT: Suspected extremist sympathizers will face trial on May 2 for the murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco, a defense lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
The killing of Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in December was deemed a “terrorist” act by Moroccan authorities.
Twenty-four defendants will face trial — for charges including promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell or causing premeditated harm to persons — in Sale, a city neighboring the capital Rabat, according to defense lawyer Saad Sahli.
A Spanish-Swiss man who authorities allege subscribed to “extremist ideology” stands accused of helping the four main suspects in the murder, charges he denies.
The decapitated bodies of the two victims were found in the High Atlas mountains, where they had been hiking in an area popular with tourists.
A video circulated on social media allegedly showed the murder of one of the women, while Rabat’s prosecutor has said the four main suspects appeared in separate footage pledging allegiance to the Daesh group.
The accused however had no contact with the extremist group in conflict zones, according to Morocco’s anti-terror chief.
The North African country relies heavily on tourism.
Foreign visitors were previously targeted in a 2011 bomb blast in Marrakesh which killed 17 people.
An attack in 2003 on the financial capital Casablanca left 33 people dead.