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3 Bangladeshis among Dozens Killed in New Zealand Massacre

Ahmad Syamsudin and Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Jakarta and Dhaka
2019-03-15
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Paramedics take a man to an ambulance after a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019.
Paramedics take a man to an ambulance after a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019.
AP

Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET on 2019-03-15

Three Bangladeshis died and at least two Indonesians and two Malaysians were wounded when a self-proclaimed racist suspect used rifles to attack a pair of mosques in New Zealand on Friday, killing 49 people while livestreaming the gory footage on social media, officials said. 

Several people from the Middle East were also among those killed or wounded when the gunman opened fire on worshippers at the mosques in Christchurch, while hundreds of Muslims knelt during Friday prayers, authorities said.

“Among the casualties (about 50) there are reports of death of three persons of Bangladesh origin, and a few are critically injured,” the Bangladesh national news agency BSS quoted Dhaka’s High Commission to Australia as saying in a statement.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, described the carnage from the shooting rampage as one of her country’s “darkest days.”

“It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack,” she told her countrymen on national television.

Hours after the attack, the U.N. Security Council in New York condemned it as “heinous, cowardly.”

Hariz Aqil Abdul Ghani, a Malaysian student who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, told BenarNews that the mosque where the shooting took place was only three km (1.8 miles) away from his rented home.

“My Muslim friends and my housemates are safe,” he said. “We are on locked down at home. It is shocking and scary.”

New Zealand authorities have arrested and filed charges against the suspected shooter, identifying him as Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, who published an online manifesto titled “The Great Replacement” on Twitter before allegedly launching the rampage.

According to the Associated Press, two other armed suspects were taken into custody to determine whether they played a role in the shootings. Friday’s rampage shocked the country that is “so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns,” as AP put it.

Authorities said Tarrant killed 41 people in that mosque, while several more people were gunned down on the second mosque minutes later. At least 49 people were wounded in the two mosques, police said.

Bangladesh’s honorary consul in Auckland, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, told The Associated Press that “so far” three Bangladeshis were among those killed and four or five others were wounded, including two left in critical condition.

“One leg of an injured needed to be amputated while another suffered bullet injuries in his chest,” Rahman Bhuiyan said. He declined to identify the dead or wounded.

Meanwhile, a cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh, which was scheduled to start in Christchurch on Saturday, was canceled. Bangladeshi cricketer Tamim Iqbal said the entire national team had just arrived at the Al Noor mosque when the attack began.

“Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” he said on Twitter.

Worldwide condemnation

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen expressed condolences for the loss of lives, including those of three Bangladeshis.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened to learn about the tragic shooting incidents causing heavy casualties, including lives of persons of Bangladesh origin,” he said in a statement.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said two Indonesian nationals – a father and his son – were wounded in the shooting. The Malaysian government issued a statement describing the attacks as barbaric.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, expressed outrage over the killings.

“Indonesia condemns such acts of acts of violence,” Widodo told reporters.

The country’s largest organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, described the attacks as “barbaric and beyond the bounds of humanity.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned what he called a terror attack against the worshippers, and blamed “Islamophobia.”

He said the attack “reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion.”

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump joined other world leaders on Friday in condemning the attack in Christchurch, which he called a “horrible massacre.” 

“49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” Trump tweeted.

The White House also issued a statement condemning the attack.

“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,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also expressed his condolences to the grieving families of the victims.

“No one should have to fear such violence in their place of worship. The American people mourn this tragedy together with our friends in New Zealand,” he said in a statement. 

Australian suspect

In Australia, authorities said Tarrant was an Australian citizen.

In the 74-page manifesto, Tarrant claimed that the premeditated attack was “beyond all doubt, anti-immigration.”

Tarrant used a high-definition helmet camera to livestream his attack on social media.

The footage showed him walking toward the front yard of the Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque and firing nine rounds from a shotgun as he entered the door, before quickly transitioning into an assault rifle – eerily similar to a video game – while he opened fire at people who were kneeling.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube raced to remove Tarrant’s video footage, but it continued to be replicated as other social-media users pleaded with people to stop sharing it.

“New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the live-stream commenced and we removed both the shooter's Facebook account and the video,” Facebook said in a statement. “We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we're aware.”

The international news agency AFP said it had determined that the video was genuine through a digital investigation that included matching screenshots of the mosque taken from the gunman’s footage with multiple images available online showing the same areas.

Tarrant’s online manifesto carries the same title as “The Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that can be traced back to a 1973 French novel which depicts the collapse of white Christian European population through mass migration and demographic growth.

Mass shootings in New Zealand are rare. 

Before Friday’s attack, the deadliest shooting in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor, according to the Associated Press.

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