Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Christchurch attack:Turkey investigating suspect's trips - latest updates

Earlier in the day New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said she was one of 30 recipients of the gunman's 'manifesto' minutes before the attack

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9pm Summary

New Zealand's cabinet will meet on Monday to discuss Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's promise to tighten gun laws in response to the nation's deadliest mass shooting on Friday.

The move comes as family and friends grieve for the 50 people killed in the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, and amid nationwide demonstrations of solidarity with the Muslim community.

Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were recovered from the car of a man arrested soon after the shootings at Al Noor and Linwood mosques on Friday.

In a court appearance on Saturday, Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was charged with one count of murder.

He was licensed to own the weapons, although the semi-automatic rifles were reportedly modified illegally.

While an outright ban on semi-automatic rifles is considered unlikely, Ms Ardern has said legislators would consider measures such as tighter controls on sales of ammunition magazines.

“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” Ms Ardern said on Saturday.

“There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

She said Mr Tarrant obtained the category A licence in November 2017 and started buying firearms the next month.

New Zealand tightened its gun laws in response to its last mass shooting in 1990, when a man killed 13 people in the town of Aramoana.

Authorities are yet to release the bodies of victims from Friday's attack as they try to confirm their identities, with relatives anxious to perform the burial rites as soon as possible in accordance with Islam.

But volunteers arrived from across the country to help with the burials in Christchurch and authorities sent in backhoes to dig graves in a site that was fenced off and blocked from view.

Ms Ardern said authorities hoped to release all of the bodies by Wednesday, and Police Commissioner Mike Bush said pathologists and coroners were helping to complete the task as soon as possible.

Thirty-four wounded are still in hospital in Christchurch, with 12 in critical condition. A four-year-old girl at a children's hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.

Read more

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6.40pm UAE-born Hussein Al Umari killed 'running towards the attacker'

The only thing comforting Janna Ezat after her son's death in Friday’s terror attacks, is that he died a hero.

Hussein Al Umari died alongside 49 others in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, when a gunman massacred Muslims gathering for Friday prayer.

Al Umari, 36, went to Masjid Al Noor every Friday for prayers since he recently lost his job, which gave him more free time.

Al Umari spent much of his adolescent life in Abu Dhab, after his family emigrated here from Mosul, Iraq, in 1982. He had spent the last 22 years of his life in Christchurch.

On Friday, as he prayed alongside others from the city's Muslim community, Brendon Tarrant entered the mosque and began firing into the crowd.

As people ran for their lives, or lay dead on the floor, Al Umari rushed towards the shooter, shouting at him to stop.

Read Ashleigh Stewart's full story here.

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6.25pm UAE executive's son: 'My dad took a bullet for me'

Ali Adeeb owes his life to his father.

When the gunman burst into the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on Friday and began shooting, Adeeb Sami, 52, flung himself over his two sons.

He was shot in the back as he tried to protect Abdullah, 29, and Ali, on his 23rd birthday.

"My dad took a bullet for me," Mr Adeeb told The National from Christchurch.

"As soon as the speech started, the shooting started a few minutes after. My first thought was for my dad. I was trying to find my dad and if I died at least I died with him."

Mr Sami tried to shelter his two sons as the shooter took aim at those lying on the floor. While doing so, he took one of the bullets in his back, which narrowly missed his spine.

Read Ashleigh Stewart's full story here.

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5.29pm Turkey investigates gunman's 2016 trips

Turkey has begun to track the past movements of the suspect in the Christchurch mosque shootings after it emerged he paid an extended visit to the country more than two years ago.

A Turkish official said initial checks found that Brenton Tarrant, 28, went to Turkey twice in 2016, from March 17 to 20 and from September 13 to October 25.

State-run media released a photograph, without syaing when it was taken, of Tarrant entering through Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

“We are currently investigating the terrorist’s movements and contacts within the country,” the official said.

Security forces are trying to piece together where Tarrant went and who he met while he was in Turkey, particularly during his six-week stay.

Investigators are to initially focus on the area around Sultanahmet Square in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district, which includes the former church and mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hurriyet newspaper reported.

They will also examine hotel, airport and bus records. Tarrant referred to returning Hagia Sophia to Christian worship in a “manifesto” he distributed before the attacks.

Read the full story from Andrew Wilks here.

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5.20pm Pakistan to honour man who confronted gunman

A Pakistani man killed as he appeared to confront the gunman in the Christchurch mosque attacks will be given a national bravery award, Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Nine Pakistanis were among the 50 people shot dead in the terrorist gun attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city.

Video of the massacre taken by the gunman shows the man being shot down at Al Noor mosque while apparently lunging at the attacker as other worshippers flee.

"Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was martyred trying to tackle the white supremacist terrorist and his courage will be recognised with a national award," Mr Khan said.

Rashid, 50, died alongside his eldest son Talha Naeem, 21. He was a banker by profession and moved to New Zealand in 2009 to study, local media reported.

Read the full story from Ben Farmer here.

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4.15pm Pope offers prayers for 'our Muslim brothers'

Pope Francis has offered prayers for "our Muslim brothers" killed in the attack.

Francis, in his traditional Sunday prayer, said that the mosque attack victims were added "to the pain, wars and conflicts that don't cease to afflict humanity".

He led the faithful in a silent prayer and renewed "an invitation to unite in prayer and gestures of peace to oppose hatred and violence".

The public prayers follow a telegram of condolence sent after the Friday attacks, in which the pontiff denounced "the senseless acts of violence".

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4.00pm New Zealand meant to be a 'safe haven' for Syrians

A Syrian father and his two sons, who found refuge in New Zealand last year after fleeing their homeland, were among the victims of Friday’s terrorist attack at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch.

Khaled Mustafa, 46, was killed alongside his son Hamza, 16, who was initially listed as missing, when the bullets rang out on Friday afternoon.

His son Zaid, 13, was severely injured and is still in hospital.

Family spokesman Ali Akil told The National's Ashleigh Stewart that Zaid had undergone a six-hour surgery and his condition was stable.

Mr Mustafa's wife and young daughter were not at the mosque with them. His wife was being supported by a family friend, and was in "a lot of pain".

"This is a family who had managed to survive the atrocities in Syria, they then managed to escape to Jordan," Mr Akil said.

"They ended up in refugee camps in Jordan for a number of years and then they finally were able to come to New Zealand as their final safe haven destination."

Read the full story here

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3.35pm Australia's open mosque day attracts big crowds

Residents in the Australian state of Victoria flooded to mosques on Sunday to offer condolences and show solidarity with the Muslim community, The National's Paul Stafford reports.

About 500 visitors were reported at the Omar Al Khattab Mosque in the northern Melbourne suburb of Preston this year, as part of the annual open day, up from a usual 100 to 150.

“We’ve had overwhelming messages of support, of condolences, of solidarity,” said Baha Yehia, 43, a community relations volunteer with the mosque.

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3.25pm Update on the injured

The Canterbury District Health Board has issued an update on the condition of those injured in the attacks.

David Meates, chief executive of the board, gave the following details:

We currently have 34 patients who were injured in the mosque attacks in Christchurch Hospital.

Two were discharged late yesterday and we expect two more people will be well enough to go home later today.

There are currently 12 people in intensive care in a critical condition. We expect a small number of these people to be well enough to transfer to other wards later today.

There is also one four-year-old girl in Starship Hospital in Auckland in a critical condition. She was transferred from Christchurch to Auckland on Saturday 16 March.

Yesterday we treated and discharged 9 new patients who were injured in the mosque attacks and presented at the Christchurch Hospital emergency department with injuries such as embedded glass fragments, lacerations and back, knee and foot injuries.

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2.45pm Crowdfunding page for 'Eggboi' raises Dh110,200

A crowdfunding page set up to help the Australian teenager who smashed a racist senator in the head with an egg has raised nearly $30,000 (Dh110,200) to help with his legal fees and to buy him “more eggs”.

Independent Australian Senator Fraser Anning attracted widespread criticism for appearing to blame Friday’s white supremacist attack on Muslim immigration to New Zealand.

Will Connolly, 17, was filmed smashing an egg on Mr Anning's head.

The senator turned around and punched the boy in the face twice, before five or six of his male associates tackled the teenager to the ground, kneeing and elbowing him while he was restrained on the floor.

You can read the full story here

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2.25pm New Zealand Police clarifies response times

New Zealand Police have tweeted in response to what it says was "speculation around police response times to the first attack on Deans Ave on Friday".

It said that "to clarify", it received its first 111 call at 1.41pm. The first armed police unit was on scene at 1.47pm.

"That's six minutes to respond," it said.

It its armed offenders squad was at the scene "within 10 minutes" and "within 36 minutes, a mobile offender was in custody. I am very proud of the police response to this terrible attack".

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1.50pm Crusaders rugby club considers name change

Christchurch professional rugby club the Crusaders says it will consider changing its name after the attacks on Friday.

The side, which brands itself as "the world’s most successful non-international professional rugby team", issued a statement in response to "concerns raised" about its name.

It said it would discuss the topic with a range of people, including the Muslim community, "at an appropriate time".

You can read the full statement in the tweet below.

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1.30pm Dunedin airport closed due to suspicious device

New Zealand police closed Dunedin airport late on Sunday after a suspicious device was reported on the airfield.

"Dunedin Airport is currently closed," a statement said. "Police are at the scene and specialist teams have been deployed to determine the nature of the package."

According to tracker Flightaware, Air New Zealand flight 691 from Wellington had been circling over the city for almost an hour before being forced to return to its origin.

The New Zealand Transport Agency reported State Highway 86, the main road leading to the airport, had been closed.

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1.05pm 'I threw a card machine at the attacker but I'm no hero'

Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, 48, an Afghan-born shopowner who has lived in Australasia for the past three decades, was attending Friday prayers with his four children at the Linwood Islamic Centre when the attack began shortly before 2pm.

“At first we thought it was firecrackers. Someone trying to play around with us," Mr Wahabzadah told The National.

A man then yelled that people had been shot outside, he said.

Mr Wahabzadah ran outside to where the gunman had already killed three people, instinctively grabbing an credit card payment terminal on his way out the door and threw it at the attacker as they came face to face.

Read the full story here

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12.20pm Video summary - more than a dozen in critical condition

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12 noon Victims range in age from three to 77

Full details of who died in the attack have yet to be confirmed publicly by authorities, but a list is being circulated by families of the deceased.

The document provides the names of 44 men and four women, missing the identities of two of the 50 victims confirmed as dead by police.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the list was not formal and "will not be until formal identification has been completed".

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11.30am 'We stand united with our Muslim brothers and sisters'

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said terror had no place in Christchurch and that the community was united in condemning Friday’s mosque shooting.

"There are people who are absolutely determined to divide our world and they will only conquer us if we allow divisions to occur," Mrs Dalziel told The National.

"We stand united with our Muslim brothers and sisters."

Mrs Dalziel said the priority was to show solidarity with the people of all countries affected and “seek forgiveness.”

You can read more on this here

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10.50am Tension over release of bodies

The first bodies from the Christchurch mosque massacres were due to be released late on Sunday. But there is growing frustration among victims' families over delays in getting their remains for burial.

Islam states that the deceased should be buried within 24 hours but authorities said the complex investigation made a quick process difficult.

New Zealand officials said that all 50 bodies should be back with their families by Wednesday.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 17: General view of the graves being prepared at Memorial Park Cemetery on March 17, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 49 people are confirmed dead, with with 36 injured still in hospital following shooting attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March. 41 of the victims were killed at Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue and seven died at Linwood mosque. Another victim died later in Christchurch hospital. A 28-year-old Australian-born man, Brenton Tarrant, appeared in Christchurch District Court on Saturday charged with murder. The attack is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
The graves being prepared at Memorial Park Cemetery on March 17, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Getty Images

"It's a massacre, what else do they need to know?" Sheikh Amjad Ali, an assistant school principal who had travelled from Auckland to help with the funeral arrangements, told AFP.

"The families are sad but they are getting a bit frustrated. The reasons of their deaths are known. Why not release those who have been identified?

"I'm not going to talk against authorities because they have their own rules and regulations, but they are balancing between culture and religious views and the local laws."

Mr Ali said it was difficult for relatives to know that the bodies had been lying in the mosques for more than a day.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a "small number" of bodies would be returned to families from Sunday evening.

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10:10am Pakistani death toll reaches nine

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says three more Pakistanis have been identified among those killed, bringing the nation's death toll to nine.

Spokesman Mohammad Faisal in his latest tweet on Sunday said Zeeshan Raza, his father Ghulam Hussain and mother Karam Bibi are now confirmed to have been killed in the terrorist attack in Christchurch.

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9.45am New Zealand wants answers from Facebook

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would be looking for answers from Facebook and other social media companies as to how the attack was streamed live on their platforms.

Ms Ardern said there were "further questions to be answered" by the tech giants, and that Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had been in contact and "acknowledged what has occurred here in New Zealand".

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets representatives of the Muslim community at Canterbury refugee centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Reuters
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets representatives of the Muslim community at Canterbury refugee centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Reuters

The livestream, lasting 17 minutes, was shared repeatedly on YouTube and Twitter, and internet platforms were scrambling to remove videos being reposted of the gruesome scenes.

"We did as much as we could to remove, or seek to have removed, some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack," Ms Ardern said.

"But ultimately it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal."

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8.50am Facebook removes more than 1 million videos

Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand has revealed the scope of the social media platform's moderating work after videos from the attacks were widely posted and shared.

In the first 24 hours, Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, of which 1.2 million were blocked at upload.

"Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we're also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content," Ms Garlick said.

"We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people."

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8.10am Ardern: 'Manifesto' didn't include location or specific details

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her office received a "manifesto" from the gunman suspected of killing 50 people in two Christchurch mosques minutes before Friday's attack.

"I was one of more than 30 recipients of the manifesto that was mailed out nine minutes before the attack took place," Ms Ardern said on Sunday.

"It did not include a location, it did not include specific details."

She said it was sent to security services within two minutes of receipt.

Initially, 49 people were declared dead, but two Jordanians and a Saudi national succumbed to their wounds on Saturday, raising the death toll above 50.

Suspect Brenton Tarrant appeared before a judge on Saturday, handcuffed and wearing a white prison robe.

He has been held in custody pending further hearings.

Updated: March 18, 2019 04:07 AM

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