The day peaceful, welcoming New Zealand lost its soul

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People write on a sign at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the mosque attacks, near a police line outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
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Police stand by makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019, where one of the two mass shootings occurred. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Police officers stand guard in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Police corden off the areas close to the mosque after a gunman filmed himself firing at worshippers inside in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. A gunman opened fire inside the Masjid al Noor mosque during afternoon prayers, causing multiple fatalities. (AFP)
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Police officers secure the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2019
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The day peaceful, welcoming New Zealand lost its soul

  • NZ legal procedures mean it might take several days for the bodies to be removed from the mosque
  • Police, who are not armed while on normal duty, had few details of how the attack was coordinated

CHRISTCHURCH: When Brenton Tarrant walked into Al-Noor mosque and opened fire, it was if a whole nation’s soul died.
“The worst of the world has visited our shores, and we’ll never be the same again,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said.
He spoke for New Zealand’s 4.9 million people, avowedly multicultural and welcoming.
There are about 60,000 Muslims in New Zealand, mostly ethnic Indians from Fiji, attracting little attention in a country of 200 ethnicities and 160 languages. Most of the victims of Friday’s terrorist attack were from Fiji’s islands, but there were also Afghans, and Muslims from Turkey and Somalia.
There was anger on social media that the attack appeared to have come as such a surprise to the security services. New Zealand police, who are not armed while on normal duty, had few details of how the attack was coordinated.
When Tarrant’s live video footage of his attack emerged on Facebook, authorities quickly —and mostly successfully — appealed to people not to share it on social media. New Zealanders quickly rejected a rambling, ranting manifesto posted by Tarrant. It was given little space and was mostly dismissed.
One prominent security analyst, Paul Buchanan, director of 36th Parallel Assessments, said the focus of New Zealand’s intelligence and security services had been on the threat from Islamist extremism, and limited resources meant they had neglected the threat from other sources.
Right-wing extremists have been visible and vocal in Christchurch recently. Terrible as Friday’s attack was, it was not surprising, Buchanan said, and Tarrant’s manifesto was “straight out of the white supremacist playbook.”
During the attack, police issued an urgent nationwide appeal to all Muslims to stay at home and to close all mosques. Armed police were posted quickly outside most city mosques.
Mulki Abdiwahab had been praying in a mosque with her mother when she heard gunshots. “I didn’t know what it was,” she said, “I’d never heard a gunshot, ever. I thought at first it must have been somebody banging on the window.
“My mum grabbed my hand and then we just we ran outside. Everyone was in chaos, just running for their lives. We just kept running, and running. The gunshots kept going on for about a good 10 minutes.”

People write on a sign at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the mosque attacks, near a police line outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

Idris Khairuddin said prayers were just about to begin when he heard gunshots. His uncle Tamizi was one of six people he knew who was shot. “The gunshots sounded like pop, pop, pop,” he said. “I heard over 50.”
Carl Pomare, who had been driving past the mosque as the attack began, saw people running, and saw a five-year-old girl shot. “We looked at it thinking, we’ve got to get this little girl to the hospital now otherwise she’s going to die,” he said. “It was a pretty scary situation because there were still other shots being fired at the time inside the mosque.”
New Zealand legal procedures mean it is likely to be several days before the bodies of the victims are removed from the mosque. Identification is likely to take several days.
Friday’s terrorist attack was the worst in New Zealand history. The last was in 1985 when French secret agents blew up a ship in Auckland harbor, killing one person.
Christchurch has only recently recovered from a series of severe earthquakes, including one in 2011 that killed 187 people.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 22 March 2019
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.