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3 Bangladeshis among 49 killed in New Zealand terror attack

  • Published at 12:50 am March 16th, 2019
New Zealand attack
An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following a shooting at Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15, 2019 Reuters

Self-proclaimed white supremacist livestreamed shooting at a mosque in Christchurch

A gunman shot dead 49 people and wounded more than 40 at two New Zealand mosques, some as they were kneeling in prayer, on Friday, livestreaming online some of the killings that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned as an act of terror.

Three of the victims were of Bangladeshi origin, as well as some of survivors who were critically injured, the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday. 

The attacks took place at the Al Noor mosque and a mosque in the Linwood neighbourhood in the city, Reuters reported. 

The Bangladesh national cricket team, who were scheduled to begin the third Test match in their ongoing series with New Zealand in Christchurch, narrowly escaped the attack as they had arrived at the Al Noor Mosque for the Jumma prayers, but were warned not enter the mosque by survivors coming out of the mosque. 

The team were able to safely go back to their hotel. The rest of the tour has been cancelled, and the team are scheduled to fly back home today. 

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the Dhaka Tribune that they were in constant communication with the New Zealand authorities regarding the situation in Christchurch. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia Sufiur Rahman, who is also the concurrent envoy to New Zealand, told the Dhaka Tribune that three Bangladeshis are unaccounted for.

“It is not yet clear as to how many Bangladeshis sustained injuries. Things are still sketchy,” he added.

Quoting Honorary Consul General of Bangladesh Shafiqur Rahman, a BBC Bangla report identified the deceased as Dr Abdus Samad, a teacher of the local Lincoln University, and housewife Husna Ara Parvin.

The Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra, Australia has directly, and through the Honorary Consul of Bangladesh in Auckland, disseminated message to the Bangladeshis and the diaspora living in New Zealand in general and Christchurch in particular to remain calm, stay indoors, avoid places of congregation and to obey the instructions of the law enforcement officials, the press release said.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that 49 people had been killed in total in the attack. Health authorities said 48 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, including young children.

Forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven at the Linwood mosque, and one died in hospital, police said.

The attack is the worst ever mass killing in New Zealand, which has raised its security threat level to the highest, Prime Minister Ardern said.

Six Indonesians had been inside one of the mosques, with three managing to escape and three unaccounted for, its foreign minister said.

Afghanistan's ambassador said on Twitter three Afghans had been wounded. Two Malaysians were wounded, their foreign ministry said.

Muslims account for just over 1% of New Zealand's population, a 2013 census showed.

All mosques in New Zealand had been asked to shut their doors and post armed guards, police said.

Gunman on a mission against ‘invaders’

The gunman broadcast footage of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch on Facebook, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders."

The video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside, reported Reuters. 

One man, who said he was at the Al Noor mosque, told media that the gunman was white, blond and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"He had a big gun... he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque everywhere," said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.

It was not immediately clear if the attacks at the two mosques were carried out by the same man.

Police said three people were in custody including one man in his late 20s who had been charged with murder. He will appear in court today.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the men in custody was Australian.

Police have not identified any of the suspects.

Shortly before the attack began, an anonymous post on the discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, said the writer was going to “carry out an attack against the invaders” and included links to a Facebook live stream, in which the shooting appeared, and a manifesto.

The manifesto cited "white genocide," a term typically used by racist groups to refer to immigration and the growth of minority populations, as his motivation.

The Facebook link directed users to the page of a user called brenton.tarrant.9.

On Wednesday, a Twitter account with the handle @brentontarrant posted images of a rifle and other military gear decorated with names and messages connected to white nationalism. What looked like the same weapons appeared in the livestream of the mosque attack on Friday.

'Firing went on and on'

The online footage, which appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to a gunman's head, showed him driving as music played in his vehicle. After parking, he took two guns and walked a short distance to the mosque where he opened fire.

Over the course of five minutes, he repeatedly shot worshippers, leaving more than a dozen bodies in one room alone. He returned to the car during that period to change guns, and went back to the mosque to shoot anyone showing signs of life.

One man, with blood still on his shirt, said in a television interview that he hid from a gunman under a bench and prayed that he would run out of bullets.

"I was just praying to God and hoping our God, please, let this guy stop" Mahmood Nazeer told TVNZ.

"The firing went on and on. One person with us had a bullet in her arm. When the firing stopped, I looked over the fence, there was one guy, changing his gun."

The video shows the gunman then driving off at high speed and firing from his car. Another video, taken by someone else, showed police apprehending a gunman on a footpath by a road.

Police said improvised explosive devices were found. The gunman's video had shown red petrol canisters in the back of his car, along with weapons.

Violent crime is rare in New Zealand and police do not usually carry guns. Britain's Queen Elizabeth, the head of state of New Zealand, said she was deeply saddened by the shootings.

Before Friday, New Zealand's worst mass shooting was in 1990 when a gun-mad loner killed 13 men, women and children in a 24-hour rampage in the tiny seaside village of Aramoana. He was killed by police.

NZ PM: This is a terrorist attack

Addressing the nation following the gruesome attack, New Zealand Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern said "this can now only be described as a terrorist attack."

"We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are enclave for extremism," Ardern said in a national address. "We were chosen for the fact that we are none of these things. It was because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values.

"You have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

US President Donald Trump condemned the "horrible massacre" in what the White House called a "vicious act of hate."

"The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do," Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

The gunman's manifesto praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." The White House did not immediately respond to Reuter’s request for comment.

Political and Islamic leaders across Asia and the Middle East condemned the killings.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11," Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan posted on social media. "1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror."

Al-Azhar University, Egypt's 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, said the attacks had "violated the sanctity of the houses of God."

Emergency contact info for Bangladeshis

Honorary Consul of Bangladesh Shafiqur Rahman, based in Auckland, is scheduled to arrive in Christchurch this morning to extend support to the Bangladeshi victims.

He may be contacted at his mobile phone number +64 21024 65819.

Deputy High Commissioner Tareq Ahmed, along with a consular officer at the high commission, will also proceed to Christchurch at the earliest possible time today to provide all kinds of support. The deputy high commissioner may be contacted at his mobile phone number +61 450 657 046.

Additionally, all the diplomats at Bangladesh High Commission, Canberra are available round the clock for information and assistance. Two additional numbers for emergency contact are +61 424 472 544 and +61 450 173 035.

Dhaka Tribune Special Correspondent Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan contributed to this report