Ardern says no intelligence yet linking blasts to terror in Christchurch

WELLINGTON • New Zealand has not seen any intelligence linking the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka with the mass shooting by a white supremacist in Christchurch last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office has said.

Sri Lanka's State Minister of Defence, Mr Ruwan Wijewardene, said on Tuesday that the suicide attacks on churches and hotels in the capital Colombo and other areas were intended as retaliation for the killing of Muslim worshippers in New Zealand.

"We believe (the massacre) was carried out by an extreme Islamist group as a reprisal for the Christchurch mosque massacre," he said.

But a spokesman for Ms Ardern said on Tuesday that "New Zealand has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based", pointing out that the Sri Lankan investigation into the attacks was in its early stages.

"New Zealanders oppose terrorism and extreme violence in all its forms. In the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, it was the condemnation of the perpetrators of violence and a message of peace that unified us all," she said.

New Zealand said yesterday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.

In a statement, Ms Ardern said she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and chief executives of tech firms agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The attacks that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 was live-streamed on Facebook.

"It's critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism," Ms Ardern said in the statement.

 
 
 
 

"This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies," she added.

The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G-7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France's separate Tech for Good summit, both on May 15, the statement said.

Ms Ardern said at a press conference later in the day that she had spoken with executives from a number of tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google and a few other companies.

"The response I've received has been positive. No tech company, just like no government, would like to see violent extremism and terrorism online," she said at the media briefing, adding that she had also spoken with Facebook's Mr Mark Zuckerberg directly on the topic.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Ardern says no intelligence yet linking blasts to terror in Christchurch'. Print Edition | Subscribe