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. 


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 17 June 2019
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.