At least 49 killed as gunman livestreams New Zealand mosque ‘terrorist attacks’

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Police attempt to clear people from outside the mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand after the attack. (AP)
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Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Police and ambulance staff help a wounded man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand,on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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A man talks on his mobile phone across the road from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Updated 18 March 2019

At least 49 killed as gunman livestreams New Zealand mosque ‘terrorist attacks’

  • Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: At least 49 people, including children, were killed, and 50 others critically injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday, which are being described as “terrorist attacks.”

“This is one of New Zealand's darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacidna Ardern. "Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” 

New Zealand police detained three men and a woman, with one of them being charged with murder. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.

One of four people detained in New Zealand after mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch is Australian, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody I have been advised is an Australian-born citizen,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“As family members with our New Zealand cousins today, we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”

Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.

The video, which was cut as it was deemed too graphic, went on to show the shooter gunning down worshippers through the halls of the mosque, before reaching the main prayer hall.

The shooter fired at groups of worshippers huddled on at the corners of the room, as one man attempted to stop the shooter but only succeeded in knocking the gunman down before being shot.

Security officials walk outside the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP/Tessa Burrows)

New Zealand's threat level had been raised to “high” in response to the deadly terror attack.
“We have lifted our threat level from low to high,” Ardern said, adding that three people had been detained who were not on extremist watch lists.
“We have tightened our response from our agencies at the border, at the airports. In fact, at every level, we have a heightened response.”

Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.

Mazhar Syad Ahmed who witnessed the whole tragedy told Arab News: “It was a normal day, I was praying Linwood mosque before we heard the gunshots, I was lucky enough to run to a small store room before the shooter got inside the mosque and started shooting people.”

“I witnessed him from inside the small room, he was wearing full body-armed and he started shooting to kill 10 people before someone jumped on him forcing the shooter to leave his gun and run away, it took almost 10min before the police arrived but the shooter has already escaped, and bodies were thrown all over the mosque. This was one of my worst days ever.”

Mazhar added that “It is a peaceful city, we never had any such incident, people are very friendly and kind toward the Muslims and all other religions.

The New Zealand Herald reported there was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid in suburban Linwood.

A man who lives near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch said many people were dead there. A witness to a second shooting told New Zealand media he saw two wounded people being transported by rescuers afterward.

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque at about 1:45 p.m. and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Read more: Muslim world reacts at New Zealand terrorist attacks on mosque

Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in Peneha’s driveway, and fled.

Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.

This image taken from the alleged shooter's video, which was filmed Friday, March 15, 2019, shows him as he drives and he looks over to three guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. (AP)

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.

“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

Read more: Two Saudi citizens injured in New Zealand terrorist attacks

Mark Nichols told the Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun. Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.

Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere.”

“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.

Two Saudi citizens were among those injured in the terrorist attacks on Al Noor mosque in New Zealand’s Christchurch, according to an official statement from the Kingdom’s embassy in Wellington.

Read more: One Jordanian dead, two among those critically injured in New Zealand terrorist attacks

Palestinian sources have indicated that a number of Palestinians were amongst the victims of the New Zealand terrorist attacks. 

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said that one Jordanian was killed and 7 wounded in the New Zealand terrorist attack.

A Jordanian barber identified as Wasseim Alsati and his daughter were among those injured in the attacks. 

The Bangladesh cricket team arrived in Christchurch on Friday to play New Zealand in a third cricket test that was due to start on Saturday but has now been cancelled. 

This image taken from the alleged shooter's video, which was filmed Friday, March 15, 2019, guns on the passenger side of his vehicle in New Zealand. (AP)

"They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message. "They are shaken but good.”

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population, a 2013 census showed.

"Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand," Ardern said.

"They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who has perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand."

New Zealand historically has had only a handful of mass shootings events.

Bangladesh team narrowly avoid mosque shooting, test called off

The Bangladesh cricket team narrowly avoided being caught up in the shooting and forced the cancellation of a test match against hosts New Zealand.
The team were on a bus that was approaching the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers on the eve of the third test at nearby Hagley Oval when the shooting began.
Mario Villavarayen, the team's strength and conditioning coach, said it had been a close call.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” he told Reuters via Twitter.
“They are at the ground, they are shaken but good.”
The team were pictured on social media walking back through Hagley Park to the cricket ground and a BCB spokesman later told Reuters the team were in lockdown at their hotel.
“All our players are now safe in their hotel which has been cordoned off,” the spokesman said. “We have advised the players not to step out.
“Importantly, our players are safe.”
New Zealand Cricket said they had chosen to cancel the test, which was the final match of the tour, after discussions with the Bangladesh board.
“I spoke to my counterpart in Bangladesh and we agree it's inappropriate to play cricket at this time,” chief executive David White told TVNZ.
“It's quite unbelievable really. We are shocked.”
White said he had spoken to the liaison officer with the Bangladesh team and the players were “shocked”.
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal said on Twitter the experience had been “frightening”.
“Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” he wrote.
Mushfiqur Rahim, who missed the first two tests through injury, said the team had been fortunate to avoid the shooting.
“We are extremely lucky,” Mushfiqur said. “...never want to see this things happen again....pray for us.”

(With AP, AFP, Reuters)

Pakistan regulates falconry as Arab hunting forays loom

Updated 33 min 53 sec ago

Pakistan regulates falconry as Arab hunting forays loom

  • Every winter, thousands of the houbara bustard migrate to Pakistani deserts

KARACHI: With the annual hunting season for the houbara bustard bird beginning in Pakistan next month, the country’s southern Sindh province has moved to regulate the practice of falconry, including that parties arriving mostly from Arab states pay $100,000 to hunt 100 of the rare desert birds over a 10-day period.

Every winter, thousands of the houbara bustard migrate from Central Asia to the warmth of Pakistani deserts in Sindh province. Their arrival sets off another migration, with scores of wealthy Gulf Arab residents descending on Pakistan for falconry, the practice of hunting wild animals in their natural state or habitat, with the help of a trained bird of prey.

Local communities benefit from the hobby, the government argues, with hunters channeling cash — via hunting permit fees and jobs — into remote corners of the country where the bird is found.

In September this year, Sindh passed a new law, the Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act of 2020, to boost falconry and prevent “harmful” practices such as hunting during the breeding season.

“Previously, there was no code of conduct explained in the old law; however, in the new law it is fully explained,” Javed Mahar, the conservator at the Sindh Wildlife Department, told Arab News.

Under the new law, a foreign dignitary or his state would be required to file a hunting permit request with the Pakistani foreign office, which would then be forwarded to the wildlife department.

The provincial wildlife department would issue hunting permits to foreign dignitaries only on the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mahar added: “A foreign hunting party will pay $100,000 for hunting 100 houbara bustards in 10 days’ time.”

“The request is received by the government in writing, from a dignitary or his state or forwarded through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan,” the new law reads.

The foreign office did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2015, the Supreme Court placed a ban on hunting the houbara bustard. The government at the time, of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asked the court to review the ban because it was damaging Pakistan’s relations with Gulf states, key investors in the country. It argued that sustainable hunting of the bustard was the best means of conservation.

The court lifted the ban in 2016.

But conservationists say that the bird is at risk of extinction if hunting continues.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the bustard as a vulnerable species with a global population of between 50,000 and 100,000. It has almost vanished on the Arabian Peninsula.

But Pakistani officials say that the new law will both boost diplomatic relations with Gulf states and set better hunting precedents.

“This healthy practice will help in boosting diplomatic relations,” Pakistan Falconry Association President Kamran Khan Yousafzai said. “It is good that falconry has been regulated in Sindh,” he added, saying that the new regulations would help local communities and conservation efforts.

“The pattern can be derived from markhor trophy hunting, which diverts 70 percent of its earnings to uplift local communities and conservation whereas only 30 percent goes to the government,” he said, referring to hunting licenses auctioned each year for the rare long-horned goat native to Pakistan.

However, the World Wide Fund for Nature — Pakistan said that hunting permits for the bustard should only be issued based on population viability confirmed through credible research.

“The global population of the threatened Asian houbara bustard is continuously declining mainly due to poaching, hunting and habitat degradation,” said Muhammad Jamshed Chaudhry, WWF Pakistan senior manager for research and conservation. “Without taking stringent measures to control these, new regulation law may not demonstrate any benefits to the species and communities.”