New Zealand PM confirms intel agency inquiry after mosque attacks

Police collect evidence at the Al Noor mosque on March 19, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand, where worshippers were gunned down four days ago. (AFP / William West)
Updated 19 March 2019
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New Zealand PM confirms intel agency inquiry after mosque attacks

  • The inquiry would look at the intelligence service, communications security bureau, as well as police, customs and immigration agencies
  • Heads of these agencies welcomed the inquiry to identify loopholes

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed there will be an inquiry into the country's intelligence agencies in the wake of Friday's mosque shootings in Christchurch.
 
Ardern said the inquiry would investigate if the agencies “could or should have known” about the alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant, or his activities prior to the attacks.
 
She said the inquiry would look at the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS), Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), as well as police, customs and immigration agencies. 
 
The inquiry would also consider if the agencies were in a position to prevent the attack and whether there were issues around information sharing between agencies. 
 
Ardern said no decisions had been made about who would lead the inquiry. The terms of reference were now being finalized. 
 
Police welcomed the government's inquiry.
 
"It is important we learn any lessons we can from this tragedy," New Zealand's Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. 
 
SIS Director Rebecca Kitteridge also welcomed the inquiry.
 
"We embrace the opportunity to learn from this terrible experience," she said in a statement.
 
There were "important questions that need answers", Kitteridge said.
 
GCSB Director-General Andrew Hampton said the inquiry was important.
 
"It is of the utmost importance that the public are assured that GCSB acted lawfully and appropriately," he said.
 
Both intelligence agencies confirmed they had no prior intelligence on the accused gunman, Brenton Tarrant, before he allegedly gunned down 50 people at two Christchurch mosques on Friday. 


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.