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  • Writer's pictureNadav Cohen

49 Killed in a Mass Shooting in New Zealand

On Friday, March 15, 2019, 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, in a carefully planned and unprecedented atrocity that shocked the usually peaceful nation. A total of 48 people, including young children with wounds, were brought to the hospital. The assault was unleashed at lunchtime local time when mosques were packed of worshippers. Footage of the slaughter was streamed online, and a rambling announcement tied with white supremacist mentions was published just before the shootings happened.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defined the horror as a terrorist strike, saying it was committed by people with "extremist views" that had no place in the country or the world. It was one of New Zealand's "darkest days," she said in a press conference Friday. Experts said that every law enforcement source in the country was gathered after the attack.

Three people were apprehended in association with the shootings. A 28-year-old man was charged with shooting and will be in court Saturday morning. Two others were arrested on suspicion of ownership of firearms. Police were examining their ties to the incident, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that at least one of those detained is Australian. The murder was the work of an "extremist right-wing, violent terrorist," he said.

Police were not searching for any other suspects in connection with the attack but emphasized the investigation remained alive. None of those arrested in association with the attacks had been on any security watch lists earlier to the attack.

Authorities rejected to address the potential reasons behind the attack. But in a social media post just before the shooting commenced, an account believed to be connected to the gunman posted a link to an 87-page announcement that was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas and explanations for an attack. The manifesto was not signed.

Police said they were informed of a video shared online and aired live during the attack, which shows a gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire. "We would strongly urge that the (video) link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed," New Zealand police said.

The audacious nature of the broadcast and the tech companies' failure to halt its increase online raised serious questions about the nature of internet radicalization. In New Zealand, commentators expressed interest that the terror would seed deep divisions in a society that has mainly dodged the polarizations that have spread elsewhere.

There were responses from all over the world: according to the White House, "The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate."

Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), denounced the shootings. The OIC represents 57 nations with great or majority-Muslim populations.

"The brutal crime had shocked and hurt the feelings of all Muslims around the world, and served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia," he said. Othaimeen pushed New Zealand authorities to examine the assault completely.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, tweeted his sympathies to the victims of the offense, and verified that there will be "highly visible" and armed police around mosques in the UK capital on Friday.

"I want to reassure the Muslim communities in London. I have been in touch with the Met Police. There will be highly visible policing around mosques today, as well as armed response officers, as Londoners go to pray," he said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent her "deepest condolences" in a tweet. "My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence," she wrote. This has been a truly devastating tragedy, for not only the people in New Zealand but for everyone across the globe.

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