Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says ‘we still love this country’

Police escort men from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 March 2019

Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says ‘we still love this country’

  • "We still love this country," said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would "never ever touch our confidence"
  • "Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately," he said

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: An imam who was leading prayers at a Christchurch mosque when a gunman brandishing semi-automatic weapons mowed down his congregation said Saturday that the Muslim community's love for New Zealand would not be shaken by the massacre.
"We still love this country," said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would "never ever touch our confidence".
Halim gave a harrowing account of the moment during Friday prayers when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing peaceful reflection with screaming, bloodshed and death.
"Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately," he said.
But, he said, New Zealand Muslims still felt at home in the south Pacific nation.
"My children live here" he said, adding, "we are happy".
He said the majority of New Zealanders "are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity", describing how strangers exchanged hugs with him on Saturday.
"They start to... give me big hug, and give me more solidarity. This is something very important."
The attacks on two mosques by a right-wing extremist left 49 people dead.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 51 sec ago

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.