Saturday, August 17, 2019 | ePaper
Christchurch shooting is the example of religious terrorism
New Zealanders shocked as they used to see hardly 50 murders a year
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence, a religious terrorism. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected are the members of our migrant communities. The attacks sparked horror and revulsion around the world. US President Donald Trump condemned the horrible massacre in which innocent people have so senselessly killed. Mass shootings are very rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally ill man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana. However anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.
Christchurch, a relatively small city on New Zealand's south island, hits global headlines in 2011 when it was struck by a deadly earthquake, killing more than 180 people. The recent attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing around 50 murders a year in the entire country of 4.8 million and pride themselves on living in a secure and heavenly place. Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of spots, and the threat level in the nation was raised from low to high. Police took action against an extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online.
The attacker's live-streamed footage of him -- going room to room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away - went viral on social media networks around the globe. We would strongly urge that the link should not be shared anymore. We want, the footage would be removed. Millions of people are talking about this. New Zealand police described the footage shot by the gunman as extremely distressing and warned web users that they could be liable for up to 10 years in jail for sharing such objectionable content.
In addition to the footage, a number of pictures were posted on a social media website showing a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.
In Auckland, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, two unattended bags left near a railway station were detonated by military explosive experts. Police also attended a property in Dunedin which they believe is linked to the attack and evacuated nearby residents. The southeastern city was named in the suspect's manifesto as the original target for his attack. Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques anywhere in New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
Friday is Islam's holy day. Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally near the shooting on the day. The attack has shocked the local Muslim population, many of whom had come to New Zealand as refugees. The Ardern government has been vocal in its support for opening the doors to those suffering from wars in Syria, Afghanistan and beyond. The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she guided a shocked nation on one of its darkest days.
A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been arrested and charged with murder. He was appeared at the Christchurch District Court by the police on Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not yet determined. The chief suspect allegedly published a racist "manifesto" on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalisation leading up to the shootings. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.
The attacker's two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed to injuries in hospital. The dead were women and children. Around 48 people were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, including young children, with injuries ranging from critical to minor. Three Bangladeshis were among the dead, according to Bangladesh consulate in Auckland.
The visiting 17-member Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Jumma prayers at Al Noor mosque when the shooting started but all members luckily escaped. Just when they were about to enter the mosque, a lady warned them that a gun attack was going on inside the mosque, saving their lives. The distraught players managed to safely make their way back to the Hagley Oval cricket ground a kilometre away from the shooting scene.
The Bangladesh High Commission directly and through the Honorary Consul of Bangladesh in Auckland circulated message to the Bangladeshi Diaspora in general, and Christchurch in particular, to remain calm, be indoors, avoid places of congregation and to obey the instructions of the law enforcers. Around 150 to 200 people of Bangladeshi origin live in the city.
Local people are traumatised. They cannot say how many people actually went to the mosque. There is almost a curfew-like situation. Even the New Zealand government instantly couldn't say the actual figure of the casualties. This is the mosque, close to Hagley Park, where most of the Bangladeshi community members attend their prayers in a regular basis.
We still wait to get details of them from the New Zealand security officials and hospital authorities officially. Though the consulate of Bangladesh in Auckland provided details of the three, at least four other injured Bangladeshis were undergoing treatment at a hospital. There could be several others reportedly still missing.