New Zealand terror attacks: World leaders voice dismay at 'senseless violence'

Leaders from around the world have condemned attacks at two New Zealand mosques in which dozens died. France and the UK have stepped up security near mosques for fear of copycat attacks.

World leaders on Friday reacted with grief and shock after deadly shootings in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch left 50 people dead.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement expressing his shock, and called upon "all people on this holy day for Muslims to show signs of solidarity with the bereaved Islamic community." Guterres urged people everywhere to work with one another to "counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism."

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DW News | 15.03.2019

Merkel: 'We share their horror and condemnation'

In a statement on Twitter, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was deeply saddened by the attacks and that she condemned racist hatred and acts of terrorism.

Her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, also spoke for the German government, calling the attack on people solely because of their religion "an attack on all of us" and by urging New Zealand to stay strong.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'There was blood everywhere'

A witness said "there was blood everywhere," after a right-wing terror attack on two New Zealand mosques killed 50 on Friday. Another witness saw a man in black enter the Al Noor mosque during prayers in Christchurch and heard dozens of shots before fleeing, adding that he saw several dead on the scene. As of Friday afternoon 48 people, including children, were being treated for gunshot wounds.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Twin attacks target two mosques

Police asked all mosques across New Zealand to close while they hunted those responsible for the twin attacks. Al Noor mosque (above) is approximately 7 kilometers across the city from Linwood Mosque, the site of the second shooting.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

City on lockdown

Police initially arrested four people, two of them armed, and later charged one with murder. An Australian man, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have filmed himself carrying out the shooting and streamed it on social media. A manifesto was also published online, praising white men who had carried out similar massacres. It also called US President Donald Trump a "symbol of renewed white identity."

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'Atmosphere of fear'

The attacker's stated aim was to "create an atmosphere of fear" and "incite violence" against Muslims. Police said they recovered several guns from the mosques and two explosive devices in two vehicles at the scene. While the suspects were unknown to police, they said the attack appeared to have been well planned. Police were not searching for other suspects, but were on alert

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Narrow escape as shock spreads

The world reacted in shock. Anger spread in some countries and security was heightened at prayers at this mosque in Bangladesh as news was released that the Bangladeshi cricket team had narrowly escaped the shooting. The players had arrived at one of the mosques as the attack was unfolding when they heard gunshots.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'One of New Zealand's darkest days'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attack as terrorism, calling it "one of New Zealand’s darkest days." "Many directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here...They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not," she said.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

World in mourning

Friday sermons across the world were dominated by grief and prayers for the lives lost in the attack. Prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (here) mourned the victims. Demonstrations in other major cities such as Sydney, Istanbul and London condemned global terror.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Dismay at 'senseless violence'

Leaders across the world expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outside New Zealand House in London. Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed solidarity against "racist hatred," and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called it an "attack on all of us." Queen Elizabeth was "deeply saddened," while other leaders expressed their outrage at hate speech.

Need for solidarity

Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, where 77 people were killed in a far-right attack eight years ago, has called on the world to fight extremism "in all forms" following the attack, while voicing her solidarity with New Zealand.

"This is a strong reminder of how important it is for all of us to help bring down tensions, work against extremism and that we show solidarity with each other when something like that happens," she told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

New Zealand's head of state, British Queen Elizabeth II, also said she was deeply saddened by the attacks. "At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders," she said in a message. The queen last visited New Zealand in 2002 amid celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathy by saying: "Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest. To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat." Canada, too, knows the pain of such attacks all too well, in 2017, six people were killed and more than a dozen injured after a gunman attacked Muslims worshipping in Quebec. 

Read moreRacist or Islamist — lone-wolf attackers show similar patterns 

Muslim voices

Leaders of Muslim-majority countries have also offered their sympathies. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all sent messages of condolences. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wrote in a tweet that "on a day of peace like Friday and at a place of worship like the mosque, we witnessed the most heinous crime of religious hatred."

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Malaysia's government slammed the attacks as acts of terror, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urging the New Zealand government to do its best to "arrest these terrorists."

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DW News | 15.03.2019

New Zealand: Eyewitnesses describe encounter with shooter

The grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque and university in Egypt, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, condemned the attacks and warned of "the grave consequences of hate speech, xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia." 

The presumed attacker in New Zealand posted a manifesto online ahead of the attacks in which he espoused anti-Islam and anti-immigration views.

Read more: Germans tolerant of LGBT neighbors, but not Muslim ones

'Heartbreaking'

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of New Zealand's regional neighbor, Australia — where the suspected attacker was born — called the gunman "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist."

France, which is home to the largest Muslim community in western Europe, has meanwhile said it would step up security measures at mosques and other religious sites in response. The country's president, Emmanuel Macron, also denounced the "odious crimes against the mosques in New Zealand" and said France would work with global partners to combat terrorism.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the news of the attacks "heartbreaking" and sought to reassure the city's Muslim communities by saying police presence would be stepped up around mosques. Mosques in London have been targeted in the past, with a van attack in 2017 claiming one life and leaving several others injured.

Pope Francis denounced what he called "senseless acts of violence" at the two mosques.

US President Donald Trump also tweeted "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of New Zealand after "the horrible massacre in the Mosques (sic)," adding "God bless all!" White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described the attacks as a "vicious act of hate."

Trump has faced criticism in the past of holding and propagating anti-Islam and racist views that could contribute to racially-motivated violence.

tj/sms (AP, dpa)

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