New Zealand at OIC summit: Mosque gunman faces life prison in isolation

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New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
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New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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OIC Secretary-General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) poses for a group photo alongside New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters (2nd R), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen (2nd L), Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and other delegates during an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2019

New Zealand at OIC summit: Mosque gunman faces life prison in isolation

  • The OIC, in a declaration, urged all countries to refrain from statements and policies that associate Islam with terror and extremism
  • It also demanded that March 15 — the day of the Christchurch attack — be marked as the International Day of Solidarity Against Islamophobia

ISTANBUL: New Zealand's deputy prime minister said the gunman accused of killing 50 people in two mosques in the South Pacific nation would spend the rest of his life in isolation in prison and called for solidarity to eradicate "hate-filled ideologies."
Winston Peters was speaking at an emergency session of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation's executive committee called by Turkey to combat prejudice against Muslims in the wake of the attack.
Peters' attendance comes amid controversy sparked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, at election campaign rallies, has been screening video clips of the attack, despite efforts by New Zealand to prevent the video's spread. Erdogan also drew Australia's ire for comments suggesting that Australians and New Zealanders with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back in coffins like their ancestors who fought against Turks in the World War I Battle of Gallipoli.
Peters took a conciliatory tone on Friday, welcoming comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said at a news conference at the end of the OIC meeting, that Australians and New Zealanders visiting Turkey would be greeted at Gallipoli remembrance ceremonies next month with the same welcoming hospitality "as they always were."
Peters said: "We are returning home to New Zealand with a grateful assurance that our people will come here to commemorate Anzac and will be as welcome as they always were."
Peters said, however, that he didn't discuss Erdogan's use of the footage with Turkey's foreign minister or president though it was widely expected that he'd raise the issue.
"I did not see any sound, peaceful purposes in raising it," Peters said, adding that they had received "very assuring information" from the Turkish presidency.
Speaking at the emergency session, Peters told representatives of Muslim nations: "no punishment can match the depravity of his crime but the families of the fallen will have justice." He also screened moving photographs of New Zealanders mourning the victims.  
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, was arrested and charged with murder. Tarrant livestreamed the attack and released a manifesto describing his white supremacist views and how he planned the shootings.
The OIC, in a declaration, urged all countries to refrain from statements and policies that associate Islam with terror and extremism. It also demanded that March 15 — the day of the Christchurch attack — be marked as the International Day of Solidarity Against Islamophobia.
Addressing the OIC meeting Friday, Erdogan praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying her "reaction, the empathy displayed and her solidarity with Muslims" should serve as an example to all leaders.
Erdogan slammed populist politicians who he said encouraged attacks on Muslims and refugees.
"Politicians who pave themselves the road to power by alienating Muslims and creating enemies out of refugees, must pull themselves together."
He also called for neo-Nazi groups to be considered terrorists.
He said: "If we don't show our reaction in a strong manner, the neo-Nazi virus will engulf the body even more. If we don't raise our voices, Western governments will not disrupt their comfort."  


Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

Updated 08 December 2019

Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

  • The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks

AL-BARA, Syria: Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes on Saturday killed 19 civilians, eight of them children, in the country’s last major opposition bastion, a war monitor said.

The air raids in the rebel-run northwestern region of Idlib also wounded several others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Airstrikes by regime ally Russia killed four civilians including a child in the village of Al-Bara in the south of the region, the Observatory said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene saw rescue workers pick through the rubble of a two-story home whose concrete roof had collapsed.

Rescuers carried away the body of a victim wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher.

Russian raids also killed nine civilians including three children in the nearby village of Balyun, the Observatory said.

Crude barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters killed five civilians including three children in the village of Abadeeta, also in the same area.

In the southeast of the embattled region, a raid by a regime aircraft killed another child in the village of Bajghas, the Observatory said.

The Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, says it determines the provenance of an airstrike by looking at flight patterns and the aircraft and munitions involved.

The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks as the government appears to be preparing for an offensive on rebel-held areas east of the province to secure the main highway that links the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest and once commercial center.

The Idlib region, which is home to some 3 million people including many displaced by Syria’s civil war, is controlled by the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Damascus regime has repeatedly vowed to take back control of Idlib.

Bashar Assad’s forces launched a blistering military campaign against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes. A cease-fire announced by Moscow has largely held since late August.

But the Observatory says deadly bombardment and skirmishes have persisted, with more than 200 civilians killed in the region since the deal.

Syria’s war has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

Earlier, the Observatory and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense said four people, including a child and two women, were killed in airstrikes on the opposition-held village of Bara.

The Observatory said five others were killed in the village of Ibdeita and a child in another village nearby.

Different casualty figures are common in the immediate aftermath of violence in Syria, where an eight-year conflict has killed about 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s prewar population.

Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year on Idlib, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. The government offensive forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

A fragile cease-fire halted the government advance in late August but has been repeatedly violated in recent weeks.