Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’

Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’
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Farid Ahmed, one of the survivors, speaks during the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’
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Religious leaders take their seats ahead of the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’
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New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with relatives of victims of the mosque attacks at the national remembrance service at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’
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People cry as they sing the national anthem during the national remembrance service for victims of the mosque attacks, at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 29, 2019. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Updated 29 March 2019

Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’

Christchurch survivor tells remembrance service: ‘I choose peace’
  • Speakers honored the dead and those who survived the March 15 attacks,
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was joined by representatives from nearly 60 nations, including her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: A Maori lament echoed across Christchurch Friday as a survivor of the New Zealand mosque attacks told a national remembrance service he had forgiven the gunman responsible for the racist massacre that shocked the world.
Thousands attended the service in the grieving southern city, standing silently with heads bowed while the names of 50 people killed by a self-avowed white supremacist gunman were read out.
Speakers honored the dead and those who survived the March 15 attacks, including 22 people who remain in hospital, among them a critically injured four-year-old girl.
Wearing a traditional Maori cloak, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was joined by representatives from nearly 60 nations, including her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
Ardern, who has been widely hailed for her response to the tragedy and received a prolonged standing ovation when she took the stage, praised the way New Zealanders had embraced their devastated Muslim community since the attacks.
“Racism exists, but it is not welcome here,” she said.
“An assault on the freedom of any one of us who practice their faith or religion is not welcome here. Violence and extremism in all its forms is not welcome here.”
The hastily organized service was held amid tight security, with Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirming armed police from Australia were on site to assist their New Zealand counterparts.
The service heard a Muslim invocation, or du’a, and Cat Stevens — the British singer who shunned stardom in the 1970s and became a Muslim, taking the name Yusuf Islam — gave a powerful rendition of his hit song “Peace Train.”
But the most moving speech came from Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna was killed as she rushed back into a mosque trying to rescue her disabled husband.
Sitting in his wheelchair before the assembled crowd, Ahmed said he forgave the accused gunman, Australian Brenton Tarrant.
“People ask me, ‘why do you forgive someone who has killed your beloved wife?’” he said.
“I can give so many answers... Allah says if we forgive one another he loves us.”
Echoing Ardern’s theme that extremism should not be allowed to breed extremism, Ahmed received a standing ovation when he said he chose peace over anger.
“I don’t want a heavy heart boiling like a volcano with anger, fury and rage — it burns itself and burns its surroundings,” he said.
“I want a heart full of love, care and mercy. This heart does not want any more lives to be lost, any other human to go through the pain I’ve gone through.
“That’s why I am choosing peace and I have forgiven.”
Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said the atrocity was “an attack on us all.”
“Those actions were designed to divide us and tear us apart,” she said. “They have instead united us.”
Among the crowd, Azra Chida traveled from Auckland to attend the service, saying she lost two close friends in the attack.
“I have come to see their families and pay respect and visit the patients in the hospital,” she told AFP shortly before the ceremony began.
Local man Bobby Turner said: “I’m here for solidarity. To show that we care.
“It was just such a horrible thing to happen. These people were just going about their business. Prayer is supposed to be about love and peace.”


6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland
Updated 9 min 9 sec ago

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland

6 Ukrainians die, dozens injured in bus crash in Poland
  • The accident occurred around midnight on the A4 motorway near the town of Jaroslaw
  • There was no immediate cause given for the accident

WARSAW, Poland: A bus carrying dozens of Ukrainian citizens rolled off an embankment into a ditch in Poland, killing six people and injuring 41, Polish media reported on Saturday.
The accident occurred around midnight on the A4 motorway near the town of Jaroslaw, which is in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine.
TNV24, a private all-news station, reported that the bus had a Ukrainian license plate and was traveling with 57 Ukrainian citizens, including two drivers.
A large rescue operation early Saturday involved dozens of firefighters, paramedics and helicopters to transport the injured to hospitals.
There was no immediate cause given for the accident.
Ukrainians travel for work to Poland, a European Union state on Ukraine’s western border. Ukrainians fill gaps in the labor market in Poland, which has experienced fast economic growth in recent years.


Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC
Updated 06 March 2021

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC

Iranian militias claim to have active cells in Washington DC
  • Additional claims that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support

DUBAI: Iranian militia groups have active cells operating in the US capital Washington DC and other US cities, according to chatrooms used by the groups.
Kawtheryoon Electronic Team, a Telegram network used by Iranian militia groups and supporters, claimed in a recent posting that Iranian “resistance cells are rooted even in America and its capital,” Fox News reported, citing a copy of the English-language posting captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which tracks radical groups.
The militia additionally claimed that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support than ever before, as they demanded a withdraw all of American troops from Iraq and the Middle East.
The Telegram post included a picture of caskets containing US soldiers, Fox News said.
The claims of Iranian terrorist cells being present in the US comes as the Biden administration seeks to directly engage Iran in pursuit of inking a revamped nuclear accord.
President Joe Biden has earlier said Iran must cut its uranium enrichment before any return to talks over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program.
Iran nonetheless continues to sponsor terrorism, Fox News reported, and has shown no signs of backing down from its active operations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern hotspots.
It also has continued to support strikes on US personnel stationed in Iraq, and was likely behind a Wednesday rocket attack on an Iraqi air base that houses American troops, it added.


Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott
Updated 06 March 2021

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott

Pakistani PM wins vote of confidence amidst opposition protest, boycott
  • Khan was able to secure 178 votes, against the 172 required to win confidence
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan won a vote of confidence from parliament on Saturday in a session marked by opposition boycott and protest.
Khan was able to secure 178 votes, against the 172 required to win confidence, the speaker of the house announced.
Khan had himself volunteered to seek parliament’s confidence after the government’s finance minister lost a high-profile Senate seat election earlier in the week.

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths
Updated 06 March 2021

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths

Russia reports 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, 441 deaths
  • The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 441 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday reported 11,022 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,820 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,312,181 since the pandemic began.
The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 441 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 88,726.


Indian farmers mark 100th day of protest with road blockade

Indian farmers mark 100th day of protest with road blockade
Updated 06 March 2021

Indian farmers mark 100th day of protest with road blockade

Indian farmers mark 100th day of protest with road blockade
  • Farmers stood on tractors and waved colorful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage
  • The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws they say will devastate their income.
Farmers stood on tractors and waved colorful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage.
Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours. “It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group.
The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems.
For 100 days, Karnal Singh, has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now, the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn.
“We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said on Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck.
The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul.
Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers.
Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month.
Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbors back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests.
“We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said.
But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance.
“If they (the laws) turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. “We will jam roads, and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.”
Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal.
The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages.
Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces. They worry this will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore.