Two terror attacks against mosques in New Zealand leave 49 dead

Al Noor mosque in Christchurch (New Zealand), stock image. © Farrukh, Flickr/ CC
The police are holding three suspects of what has already been officially classified as a terrorist attack. One of them, 28, has been arrested under the charge of murder and two others are also in police custody. The main suspect acquired fire arms legally since December 2017.

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Two Islamophobic attacks rocked the New Zealand town of Christchurch on Friday. A shooting left 41 dead in Al Noor mosque in the city center. Another shooting just 3.4 miles away left 7 people dead in Linwood mosque. Another victim has died in the hospital, the police said.

In addition, there are 42 injured who are being treated for their wounds, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush informed. Two are in critical condition; one of them is a 4-year-old child, Bush detailed on Saturday morning in New Zealand (Friday night in Europe).

Police have asked all New Zealand mosques to close their doors to prevent other possible attacks and have asked citizens to remain vigilant. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked people in Christchurch to “stay at home and safe” on Saturday morning while investigations are ongoing.

Among those killed, in addition to New Zealanders, there were victims from Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Three suspects, one with charges

The alleged perpetrator of the deaths will appear this Saturday in court. He is a 28-year-old Australian citizen who acquired an arm license and semi-automatic weapons in New Zealand. He travelled from time to time to New Zealand and stayed for some periods, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Commissioner Bush has assured that the attacks were “very well planned”. He had acquired his fire arm license and began buying weapons legally in December 2017, Ardern explained Saturday morning local time. Therefore, she assured gun legislation in the country needed to change.

The police found two explosive devices in a vehicle, which were deactivated without causing further damage.

Bush has insisted that investigations are still ongoing and they are trying to clarify what could have been the role of the other two detainees. Another person who was present in the area was also apprehended at first, but the police chief has indicated that they consider that she was not involved and has been released.

Muslims in New Zealand

Almost 9 out of 10 New Zealanders believe that it is positive to have a diverse society, made up of different religions, cultures and ethnic groups, according to a survey carried out in the country in 2008 by Ward & Masgoret.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, however, has stated that “given the rise of extreme right”, the police and intelligence services were already devoting more efforts to control it before the attacks of this Friday.

However, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre was not known to the security forces, so Ardern acknowledged that there are many questions to answer.

Another study entitled ‘Muslims in New Zealand’, published in 2011 by Colleen Ward at the University of Wellington, showed that Muslim citizens in that country made up 1% of the population and 77% of them were born outside the country.

Other attacks on mosques

Muslims in the United Kingdom have suffered two attacks on mosques in London in recent years. In both cases they were abuses or attempts of abuse at the exit of the sentence. The 48-year-old British terrorist Darren Osborne was sentenced to life imprisonment for his attack on June 19, 2017 outside the Finsbury Park mosque in London. He killed one person and left another 12 injured.

Martin Stokes, 25, also tried to run over citizens with his car when they were outside another London mosque in Cricklewood on September 19 last year. He left three people injured. Barely a week ago, on March 6, he was sentenced to 5 years. Stokes admitted dangerous driving, the BBC reported. He had parked with some friends in a private area and they were bothering him, so they were asked to leave. He responded by ramming the car to the people who were there while he uttered Islamophobic and racist insults against them, witnesses said.

In Spain, the leader of Hogar Social Madrid, Melisa Dominguez Ruiz, and other alleged accomplices are being tried for an alleged hate crime following threats against the Islamic temple known as M-30 mosque in Madrid.

In Germany there have been numerous attacks and arson against Muslims. In the year 2017 there were at least 950 attacks against Muslims and mosques, according to statistics from the German Interior Ministry collected by local media. That year, the first in which this type of attack was officially registered, there were a total of 33 injured.

These are just some examples of Islamophobia in the West, but there are also attacks on mosques in Muslim-majority countries by terrorists from groups like ISIS or Boko Haram.

Daesh (Arab name for ISIS) itself destroyed the Mosul Mosque in Iraq after having used it some years before to declare the foundation of their supposed caliphate. Pakistan mosques have been one of the countries which suffered terrorism the most in recent years with several attacks and dozens of deaths. 95% of the attacks of this type of terrorist organizations take place in countries of Muslim majority, according to a report of the Spanish International Observatory of Studies on Terrorism (OIET).

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