Man responsible for massacres will face full force of law, says Ardern

A woman paying her respects at a memorial site outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch yesterday. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed never to utter the shooter's name, as one of the things he sought through his act was notoriety.
A woman paying her respects at a memorial site outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch yesterday. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed never to utter the shooter's name, as one of the things he sought through his act was notoriety.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHRISTCHURCH • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised yesterday that the man responsible for last week's deadly mosque massacres would face "the full force of the law", as she vowed never to utter his name.

"He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety - that is why you will never hear me mention his name," Ms Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of Parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting As-salaam aleikum ("Peace be upon you").

She praised the bravery of mosque worshippers as the lone gunman massacred their friends and family, saying the nation stood with its grieving Muslim community in this "darkest of days".

As preparations for the first burials were under way for the 50 people killed last Friday in the Christchurch mass shooting, Ms Ardern singled out three worshippers, including one of the first killed in the attack.

Mr Hati Mohemmed Daoud Nabi, 71, opened the door to the Al Noor Mosque. Ms Ardern said he "uttered the words, 'Hello brother, welcome'. His final words".

"Of course, he had no idea of the hate that sat behind the door, but his welcome tells us so much - that he was a member of a faith that welcomed all its members, that showed openness and care," she told Parliament.

Ms Ardern, who has been widely praised for her compassionate and decisive handling of the tragedy, said she never anticipated having to voice the grief of a nation.

A woman paying her respects at a memorial site outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch yesterday. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed never to utter the shooter's name, as one of the things he sought through his act was notoriety.

Residents stopping by a memorial site for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks at an Islamic Centre at Kilbirnie, in
New Zealand’s capital Wellington, yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, was charged with murder last Saturday.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

No official list of victims has been released, and police said they are "acutely aware of frustrations" at the length of time taken to formally identify the bodies.

Twelve victims had been identified to the satisfaction of the coroner and six of those had been returned to their families, they said.

Bodies of the victims were being washed and prepared for burial in a Muslim ritual process yesterday, with teams of volunteers flown in from overseas to assist with the heavy workload.

A wheelchair-using worshipper who survived the slaughter at the Al Noor Mosque, but whose wife was killed, has offered an olive branch to the gunman, saying that he would like to meet him and tell him, "I still love you".

"I don't agree with what you did... You took a wrong decision, a wrong direction, but I want to believe in you. That you have great potential in your heart," said Mr Farhid Ahmed, 59.

Ms Ardern has said she supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons and that Cabinet has made in-principle decisions to change gun laws, which she will announce on Monday. While some New Zealanders have voluntarily surrendered guns, others have been buying more to beat the ban. The decision to surrender guns has put some squarely in the social media firing line, attracting abuse, much of it from the US.

 
 
 

Ms Ardern said there would be an inquiry into what government agencies "knew, or could or should have known" about the alleged gunman and whether the attack could have been prevented.

More than 250 New Zealand police officers are working on the inquiry, with staff from the FBI in the United States and the Australian Federal Police joining them.

Police will be stationed at mosques around the country when they are open for prayers, and nearby when closed, said Ms Ardern.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group emerged from nearly six months of silence to call for retaliation over the mosque attacks. Abu Hassan al-Muhajir portrayed the shootings as an extension of the campaign against ISIS.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Man responsible for massacres will face full force of law, says Ardern'. Print Edition | Subscribe