Donald Trump

‘Appalling Events': World Reacts to Deadly New Zealand Mosque Shootings

The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation said the attack "served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia"

World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.

New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. Several dozen more were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a "terrorist attack."

Ardern said migrants and refugees affected by the attacks "have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us."

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.

Shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left dozens of people dead on Friday. Police say three men and a woman are in custody. Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said, "There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence."

Among the four people initially taken into custody — one was later released — was an Australian man. A man who earlier claimed responsibility for the shooting said he was a 28-year-old Australian and described anti-immigrant motives in a long manifesto.

The manifesto mentioned popular YouTuber Pewdiepie, who responded in a tweet by saying he was "absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person." Pewdiepie, whose name is Felix Kjellberg, offered condolences to the people affected by the shooting.

Condolences poured in from nations around the world.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "We are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist right wing terrorist. This attack reminds us of the evil that is ever present."

Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand's head of state, said in a message to the country she was "deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch" and sent condolences to families and friends of victims. The queen also paid tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting the injured.

[NATL] Photos: Mourning, Increased Security After Deadly Mosque Shootings in New Zealand

"At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders," she said in her message.

The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Youssef al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack "served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the "latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia."

Speaking at the funeral of a former minister, Erdogan said the Islamophobia that motivated the attacks "has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim," he tweeted.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, noted that the purported gunman's manifesto quoted U.S. President Donald Trump and called on Trump to clearly condemn the attack and assure people that they will be protected.

"Mr. Trump, your words matter. Your policies matter. They impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally," Awad said. "You should condemn this, not only as a hate crime, but as a white supremacist terrorist attack."

Trump, in a tweet, had earlier sent "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of New Zealand in a tweet. He wrote that "49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"

Awad called the message in Trump's tweet "a first step" that nevertheless rang hollow.

On Thursday night in the U.S., as early reports of the shootings were coming in, he tweeted a link to right-wing Breitbart News, which had interviewed him. The tweet was deleted by Friday morning.

His press secretary, Sarah Sanders, released a statement Friday morning saying the country "strongly condemns the attack" and that the U.S. stands "against this vicious act of hate."

Several police departments across the United States said they increased security around mosques in response to the shooting.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said: "The people of New Zealand are in the hearts and minds of New York City tonight as heartbreaking reports continue out of Christchurch. Our love and prayers are with all impacted by the horrific attack at these mosques."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, weighed in, drawing comparisons to the mass shootings that have occurred at various houses of worship in the U.S.: "At 1st I thought of saying, 'Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.' But I couldn’t say 'imagine.' Because of Charleston. Pittsburgh. Sutherland Springs."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted that he learned of the attack "with horror and profound sadness."

"The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life," he wrote.

In France, home to western Europe's largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.

London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city's Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.

"London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack," he said. "London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy."

Indonesia's president Joko Widodo condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for "defending demonization of Muslims as 'freedom of expression.'"

Afghanistan's Taliban movement — Islamic militants who carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces — also condemned the shooting rampage, calling it an "unforgivable crime."

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf called on the New Zealand government to investigate "the root cause of such terrorism and hand a hefty punishment to the attackers."

Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, which is considered a terrorist organization by Western countries, condemned the "policy of hatred that the United States is feeding around the world instead of prevailing religious values that call for forgiveness."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a "brazen act of terror." His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.

Jordan's King Abdullah II tweeted that "the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion." Jordan's Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas extended his country's sympathies to those who lost loved ones, saying "if people are murdered solely because of their religion, that is an attack on all of us."

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the "dastardly terrorist attack" and offered his condolences, as did several other world leaders.

A telegram of condolences sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life" caused by the "senseless acts of violence" in Christchurch. He assured all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his "heartfelt solidarity."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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