Connect with us

topNews

NZ mosque shootings toll rises to 50, families wait to bury their dead

Published

on

CHRISTCHURCH/WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The death toll in the New Zealand mosque shootings rose to 50 on Sunday after police said they found another body at one of the mosques, as families waited for authorities to formally identify victims and release their bodies for burial.

Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face further charges.

Friday’s attack, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labeled as terrorism, was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country had raised its security threat level to the highest.

Footage of the attack on one of the mosques was broadcast live on Facebook, and a “manifesto” denouncing immigrants as “invaders” was also posted online via links to related social media accounts.

The bodies of the victims had not yet been released to families because investigations were ongoing, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at a media conference in Wellington.

It is customary in Islam to bury the dead within the 24 hours.

“We have to be absolutely clear on cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen. But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs, so we are doing that as quickly and sensitively as possible,” Bush said.

Bush said the body of the 50th victim was found at the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 people died after a gunman entered and shot at people with a semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines, before traveling to a second mosque.

HERO HAILED

One man at the second mosque in the suburb of Linwood was being hailed for distracting and confronting the shooter, preventing further deaths.

Abdul Aziz, 48, told local media he heard shooting and ran outside the mosque, shouting at the gunman and drawing him away from the building, the Newshub website reported.

Aziz, originally from Afghanistan, said he picked up one of the gunman’s discarded weapons and threatened the man, who drove off.

Police then rammed the gunman’s vehicle and arrested him.

“Those two police officers acted with absolute courage,” Bush said. “They have prevented further deaths and risked their own lives to do so.”

Relatives of a member of the Bangladeshi community wait for news at a community centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Church services for victims of the attack were held around the country, including at Christchurch’s “Cardboard Cathedral”, a temporary structure built after much of the central city was destroyed in a 2011 earthquake.

Thirty-six people were still in Christchurch Hospital, with 11 being treated in intensive care, and one child moved to dedicated children’s hospital in Auckland.

At Hagley College, a school across the park from the Al Noor mosque, a makeshift support center was set up. A stream of victims’ friends and relatives entered, one woman carrying sandwiches and falafel.

One local student, who asked not to be identified, said a friend had been killed.

“He was studying to be a pilot and we saw him for morning classes. Then he went to the mosque as usual. And we are not hearing from him,” he said. “I got a call last night from a friend, around midnight, to say he has passed away.”

The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner said six citizens had been killed and three were missing.

GUN REFORM

Bush said police did not believe that three other people arrested on Friday were involved in the attack. Two men faced charges unrelated or “tangential” to the attack, while a woman had been released, he said.

Tarrant did not have a criminal history and was not on any watchlists in New Zealand or Australia.

In a manifesto circulating online, Tarrant described himself as “Just a ordinary White man, 28 years old” who used the spoils of cryptocurrency trading to finance extensive travels through Europe from 2016-2018.

Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who allegedly used five weapons, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which had been modified.

“I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” Ardern told reporters on Saturday, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

New Zealand has in the past tried to tighten firearm laws, but a strong gun lobby and culture of hunting has stymied such efforts.

Slideshow (24 Images)

There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, which has a population of only 5 million, but the country has had low levels of gun violence.

New Zealand shootings: tmsnrt.rs/2TEun3P

Reporting by Praveen Menon and Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and John Mair; Editing by Lincoln Feast

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

topNews

U.S. whiskey exports dry up as tariffs bite

Published

on

By

(Reuters) – American whiskey exports slumped in the second half of 2018, taking a blow from higher duties by the country’s trading partners following President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, an industry group said on Thursday.

A man drinks American whiskey at a bar in Shanghai, China, April 6, 2018. Picture taken April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union slapped import duties ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent on U.S whiskey and bourbon last year, resulting in a 11 percent drop in U.S. whiskey exports in the second half, according to a report from the Distilled Spirits Council.

For the first six months of 2018, whiskey exports grew 28 percent compared to the same period in 2017, partly helped by companies like Jack Daniels maker Brown-Forman Corp, fast-tracking shipments overseas, especially to Europe, before the tariffs kicked in.

Overall for the full-year 2018, whiskey exports rose 5.1 percent to $1.18 billion, a significant drop from the 16 percent rise seen in 2017.

Exports to the European Union fell 13.4 percent in the second half of the year, after rising 33 percent during the first six months.

The European Union, which imposed a 25 tariff on American whiskey, is the largest market for the liquor, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total exports, according to the Council.

Earlier in March, Brown-Forman said absorbing the costs of tariffs in key European markets was the primary reason for the decline in its third-quarter gross profit margin.

The company also said its sales would take a hit in 2019 if the tariffs were to remain in place.

“The damage to American whiskey exports is now accelerating, and this is collateral damage from ongoing global trade disputes,” Distilled Spirits Council Chief Executive Officer Chris Swonger said.

Total U.S. spirits exports rose 9.5 percent to $1.8 billion in 2018, but also slowed from 2017, the report showed.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

topNews

Exclusive: Ethiopian crash captain untrained on 737 MAX simulator

Published

on

By

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The captain of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight was unable to practice on a new simulator for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 before he died in a crash with 157 others, a pilot colleague said.

Yared Getachew, 29, was due for refresher training at the end of March, his colleague told Reuters, two months after Ethiopian Airlines had received the simulator.

The March 10 disaster, following another MAX 8 crash in Indonesia in October, has set off one of the biggest inquiries in aviation history, focused on whether pilots were sufficiently versed on a new automated system.

In both cases, the pilots lost control soon after take-off and fought a losing battle to stop their jets plunging down.

In the Ethiopian crash, it was not clear if Yared’s colleague – First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed, 25, who also died in the crash – had practiced on the new MAX simulator.

Globally, most commercial airline pilots refresh training in simulators every six months. It was not clear if Yared or Ahmednur would have been trained on the new simulator or an older one for 737s that their airline also owned.

The MAX, which came into service two years ago, has a new automated system called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). It is meant to prevent a loss of lift which can cause an aerodynamic stall sending the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way.

“Boeing did not send manuals on MCAS,” the Ethiopian Airlines pilot told Reuters in a hotel lobby, declining to give his name as staff have been told not to speak in public.

“Actually we know more about the MCAS system from the media than from Boeing.”

Under unprecedented scrutiny and with its MAX fleet grounded worldwide, the world’s largest planemaker has said airlines were given guidance on how to respond to the activation of MCAS software. It is also promising a swift update to the system.

Ethiopian Airlines declined to comment on the remarks of its pilot to Reuters about the simulator and MCAS system.

Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Jamie Freed and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

topNews

U.S.-backed fighters say operation at last Islamic State enclave not over

Published

on

By

DEIR AL-ZOR, Syria (Reuters) – U.S.-backed Syrian fighters said they were still searching territory captured from Islamic State at its final enclave in eastern Syria on Thursday and denied a report the jihadists had been finally defeated.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The final capture of the Baghouz enclave at the Iraqi border will mark the end of Islamic State territorial rule that once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq after years of military campaigns by a range of international and local forces.

After weeks of fighting, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took a big step towards capturing the besieged area on Tuesday when they seized an encampment where the jihadists had been mounting a last defense of the area.

“Combing continues in the Baghouz camp,” an SDF media official said, citing commanders of the operation on Thursday, after the Syrian Kurdish news outlet Hawar reported that the entire enclave had been captured and IS defeated.

“There is no truth (to the report of) the complete liberation of the village,” the official said.

The report on Hawar News, which is close to the Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria, was later removed from its website.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that a “tiny spot” of remaining IS territory would be “gone by tonight”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country has participated in the campaign, said on Wednesday he expected the announcement of the “final territorial defeat” to be made in the “next few days”.

Though the defeat of IS at Baghouz ends its grip over territory, it remains a threat, with fighters operating in remote territory elsewhere and capable of mounting insurgent attacks.

The U.S. military has warned that Islamic State may still count tens of thousands of fighters, dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, with enough leaders and resources to present a menacing insurgency.

The Pentagon’s internal watchdog released a report last month saying Islamic State remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria.

It warned the group could resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory without sustained pressure.

The United States believes Iraq is the location of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.

GRAPHIC – How Islamic State lost Syria: tmsnrt.rs/2O7l4mN

Additional reporting by Rodi Said in Qamishli, Syria; Writing by Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

Trending

%d bloggers like this: