As the country reels in shock, people gather at makeshift memorials outside the Al Noor mosque and the botanical garden. The stories of some victims take centre-stage in the international media. Western leaders express solidarity, whilst some Muslim countries slam Islamophobia. The Islamic State promises revenge.
Wellington (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people paid tribute with flowers, candles, balloons and messages of condolences to the 50 people who died in the mosque attacks in Christchurch in what is the worst incident of mass violence in the country's history.
The 28-year-old white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant took the lives of 50 people, 42 at the Al Noor mosque and 8 at the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Western leaders have expressed their solidarity with the Islamic community and New Zealand. Muslim nations instead accuse Western politicians and media of fuelling Islamophobia and violence.
For its part, the Islamic State (IS) is issuing threats describing the shootings in New Zealand as a "war of the Crusaders" against Muslims and promising to respond with the language of “blood".
In Christchurch, ordinary people in silence and under the rain gathered at the makeshift memorials outside the Al Noor mosque and the Christchurch botanical garden.
As the victims’ families wait for the authorities to release the bodies of their loved ones for burial, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she hoped process could be completed in two days. Police Commissioner Mike Bush also said that pathologists and coroners were working tirelessly to get the bodies to the families.
The police also released a preliminary list of the victims, which includes teachers, engineers and accountants, people well integrated in New Zealand society. Some had immigrated to New Zealand decades ago; others were in the country on a short visit.
New Zealand officials have not yet disclosed all the names of the people killed, but some foreign ministries and diplomats have named at least 29 victims. They include Afghans, Pakistanis (12), Bangladeshis (2), Indonesians, Indians (5), Egyptians and Jordanians. Thirty-four wounded people are in hospital, 12 in critical condition.
The stories of some of those killed are front-page in the international media. Abdullahi Dirie, 4, died in hospital from injuries sustained in the attack. Mucaad Ibrahim, 3, was with his father and brother, but got lost in the confusion that followed the first shots. Husne Ara Parvin, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi, was hit by a volley while trying to shield her wheelchair-bound husband. Pakistani Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Naeem, 22, lost their lives trying to disarm the killer.
The Christchurch tragedy was followed by unanimous condemnation around the world.
On Friday Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence, followed by Churches in Asia. Yesterday he said people must “oppose hatred and violence" with "prayer and gestures of peace” and be close to "our Muslim brothers and all that community" in New Zealand.
US president Donald Trump expressed solidarity to the New Zealand prime minister for the “horrific” attack and offered "any assistance the U.S.A. can give".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel mourned "with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques".
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 [where] 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on social media.
Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also blamed the massacre on Muslims being demonised. “Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack,” he tweeted.