New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2019
0

New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

  • "One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said
  • Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into whether police and intelligence services could have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15.
Ardern said a royal commission -- the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law -- was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in an attack that shocked the world.
"It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to how this act of terrorism occurred and how we could have stopped it," she told reporters.
New Zealand's spy agencies have faced criticism in the wake of the attack for concentrating on the threat from Islamic extremism.
Instead, the victims were all Muslims and the massacre was allegedly carried out by a white supremacist fixated on the belief that there was an Islamist plot to "invade" Western countries.
"One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said.
"New Zealand is not a surveillance state ... but questions need to be answered."
Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, 28, who was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder.
She said details of the royal commission were being finalised, but it would be comprehensive and would report in a timely manner.
It will cover the activities of intelligence services, police, customs, immigration and any other relevant government agencies in the lead-up to the attack.
The gunman livestreamed the attack online, although New Zealand has outlawed the footage as "objectionable content".
Ardern reiterated her believe it should not be aired.
"That video should not be shared. That is harmful content," she said when questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showing excerpts of the footage at campaign rallies for local elections this month.
Erdogan had angered both Wellington and Canberra with campaign rhetoric about anti-Muslim Australians and New Zealanders being sent back in "coffins" like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a World War I battle.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters travelled to Istanbul to meet Erdogan and address an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Peters said OIC members were full of praise for the support New Zealand had offered its small, tight-knit Muslim community in the wake of the killings.
"A number of them were weeping and sobbing at the demonstration (of support) by non-Muslim New Zealand towards the Muslim victims," he told reporters.
"It was dramatic and I was told by countless ministers that they've never seen anything of that type."
The body of an Indian student killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, meanwhile, was returned Monday to her grieving family in Kochi, where relatives remembered a bright young woman dedicated to her studies.
Ansi Alibava, 25, was the first of at least five Indians shot dead on March 15 to be repatriated.
The family planned to hold a funeral ceremony for the masters student in their nearby hometown of Kodungallur.


Sri Lanka police wrongly ID American Muslim over attacks

Updated 26 April 2019
0

Sri Lanka police wrongly ID American Muslim over attacks

  • The blunder comes after Sri Lankan authorities dramatically revised the death toll in the attacks, from nearly 360 dead to 253
  • The revision came after authorities said some victims had been “double-counted”

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police have been left red-faced after wrongly identifying a female American Muslim activist as a suspect in the deadly Easter bombings.
On Thursday, police issued a flyer with the names and photos of six people — three men and three women — wanted in connection with attacks that killed over 250 people.
Among those listed was a woman identified as Abdul Cader Fathima Khadhiya, accompanied by a photo of a woman in a headscarf purported to be the individual wanted for questioning.
But the photo in fact showed Amara Majeed, an American Muslim whose parents are Sri Lankan immigrants and who penned an open letter to President Donald Trump in 2015 about his rhetoric on Muslims.
“Hello everyone! I have this morning been FALSELY identified by the Sri Lankan government as one of the Daesh Easter attackers in Sri Lanka,” Majeed wrote on her Facebook page.
“What a thing to wake up to! This is obviously completely false and frankly, considering that Muslim communities are already greatly afflicted with issues of surveillance, I don’t need more false accusations and scrutiny.”
Sri Lankan police on Thursday issued a statement confirming that the photo published alongside the name “Abdul Cader Fathima Khadhiya” was not in fact of the suspect.
“The individual pictured is not wanted for questioning,” the statement signed by police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
It added that an individual called Abdul Cader Fathima Khadhiya was however still wanted for questioning.
The blunder comes after Sri Lankan authorities dramatically revised the death toll in the attacks, from nearly 360 dead to 253.
The revision came after authorities said some victims had been “double-counted” because bodies were blown apart in the attacks and misidentified.