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Jacinda Ardern apologises for failings identified by inquiry

At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti.

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New Zealand security agencies were “almost exclusively” focused on the perceived threat of Islamist terrorism before a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch last year, a report into the country’s worst massacre found.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry also criticized police for failing to enforce proper checks when granting a firearms license to Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant, who released a racist manifesto shortly before the attack and streamed the shootings live on Facebook.

But despite the shortcomings, the commission found no failings within government agencies that would have prevented the attack at two mosques in the South Island city on March 15, 2019.

“The commission made no findings that these issues would have stopped the attack. But these were both failings and for that I apologise,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the report was released.

Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole in August for the attack, which left dozens injured.
Ardern received global praise for her compassionate response to the attack and for swiftly banning the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons Tarrant used. She also launched a global movement against online extremism.

However, authorities were criticised for ignoring repeated warnings from the Muslim community that hate crimes against them were escalating.

The 800-page report said there was an “inappropriate concentration of resources” on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.

Submissions to the commission by various Muslim organisations described how they felt they were targeted by security agencies while threats against them were not taken seriously.

“We find it concerning that the Commissioners found systemic failures and an inappropriate concentration of resources towards Islamic terrorism, and yet state that these would not have made a difference to the terrorist being detected prior to the event,” the Islamic Women’s Council said in a statement.

Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Al Noor mosque which was targeted by the shooter, said the report showed “institutional prejudice and unconscious bias” exists in government agencies.

Hate crimes 

The government accepted all 44 recommendations in the report, including establishing a new national intelligence and security agency, and appointing a minister to coordinate the government’s response.

It said it would create an ethnic community ministry and a graduate programme for ethnic communities to support the country’s diverse population.

The government would also tighten firearm licensing laws, strengthen counter-terrorism laws, and make changes so police can better record and respond to hate crime.

The report found that despite having no history in New Zealand, Tarrant’s application for a firearms license was approved by the police.

It recommended mandatory reporting of firearm injuries by health professionals, after it was revealed Tarrant was treated by doctors in the months leading up to the attack after accidentally shooting himself.

Social isolation 

The report described Tarrant as “socially isolated” with few childhood friends but an avid internet user and online gamer.

Before arriving in New Zealand in August 2017, he travelled extensively, visiting dozens of countries between 2014 and 2017, mostly alone.

“The individual could present well and conducted himself in a way that did not attract suspicion. He was not identified as someone who posed a threat,” said the report.

Other than an email Tarrant sent eight minutes before he opened fire, there was no other information available that could have alerted authorities to the attack, it said.

Tarrant trained for the attack in New Zealand by developing expertise with guns at a rifle club, working out at a gym and taking steroids to bulk up, the report said.

He frequented extreme right-wing discussion boards such as those on 4chan and 8chan but YouTube was a far more significant source of information and inspiration.

Ardern said she planned to raise this directly with the leadership of YouTube.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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Baltimore bridge collapses after being struck by ship, six presumed dead

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Six construction workers missing after the Baltimore Bridge collapse are now presumed dead and rescue efforts have been suspended, police say.

It comes after a massive cargo ship smashed into the bridge while sailing out of Baltimore early on Tuesday, sending cars and people into the river below and closing one of the busiest ports on the US Eastern Seaboard.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, one of whom was hospitalised, and searched for more in the Patapsco River after huge metal spans of the 1.6-mile (2.57 km) Francis Scott Key Bridge crumpled into the icy water around 1.30 am (local time).

Search and rescue will give way to a recovery effort, with divers that will resume in the morning.

The ship reported a power issue before impact, which enabled officials to stop traffic on the bridge before the collapse.

“By being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge, these people are heroes. They saved lives last night,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore said at a briefing. The bridge was up to code and there were no known structural issues, Moore said.

There was no evidence of foul play, officials said.

Work crews had been repairing potholes on the bridge at the time of the collapse and sonar detected vehicles under the water, which was about 50 feet deep at that point, said Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland Secretary of Transportation.

Eight people were on the bridge at the time and six remained unaccounted for, the state’s transportation secretary said hours after the collision, which closed one of the busiest ports in the United States.

The 948-foot (288.95m) vessel, as long as three football fields placed end to end, had experienced a momentary loss of propulsion and dropped anchors as part of emergency procedures before impact, its management company, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd reported, according to the Singapore Port Authority.

The 3km long Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland has collapsed into the water after a cargo ship collided with it.The Key Bridge crumples after being struck by a ship, which is visible in the left of the frame. Photo: Screenshot / StreamTime Live
The Dali, owned by Grace Ocean Pte Ltd, collided with one of the pillars of the bridge, according to manager Synergy. All 22 crew members aboard the Singapore-flagged vessel were accounted for, it said.

Ship traffic was suspended at the Port of Baltimore until further notice. It is the busiest US port for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022, according to port data.

The closure of one of the US East Coast’s major ports threatens to disrupt supplies of goods from cars, to coal and other commodities like sugar. It could create bottlenecks and increase delays and costs on the Eastern seaboard, experts say. The port handles the most car imports and is among the largest for coal exports.

President Joe Biden said the US Coast Guard responded quickly to the mayday call and commended the fast action of Maryland transportation officials who shut the bridge before it was struck and “undoubtedly saved lives.”

He promised to visit Baltimore, 40 miles (64 km) away, as soon as possible and said he wanted the federal government to pay to rebuild the bridge, he said at the White House.

“I’m directing my team to move heaven and Earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible,” Biden said. The bridge, named for the author of the Star-Spangled Banner, opened in 1977.

Map of Francis Scott Key bridge on the Patapsco River near Baltimore.Photo: Google Maps
The US Coast Guard reported the collapse at 1:27am and it deployed crews for an active search and rescue mission after the Singapore-flagged container ship forced the trellis-like bridge up into a mangled mass of metal.

Jayme Krause, 32, was working a night shift on shore when the cart of packages in front of her shook violently at around 2 a.m. in what sounded like an intense thunderstorm.

A coworker at an Amazon logistics facility told her the bridge had collapsed and she ran out to look.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – MARCH 26: In an aerial view, cargo ship Dali is seen after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rescuers are searching for at least seven people, authorities say, while two others have been pulled from the Patapsco River. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)The cargo ship Dali after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Photo: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images via AFP
“I went over there, and sure as anything, it was gone, the whole bridge was just like, there was nothing there,” she told Reuters. “It was a shocking sight to see.”

She did not see anyone in the water, nor hear any cries for help from where she stood at the bay.

The Francis Scott Key bridge was the main thoroughfare for drivers between New York and Washington who sought to avoid downtown Baltimore. It was one of three ways to cross the Baltimore Harbour, with a traffic volume of 31,000 cars per day or 11.3 million vehicles a year.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott described a scene of twisted metal shooting into the sky. “It was something out of an action movie. It was something you never thought you’d see,” he said.

A live video posted on YouTube showed the ship ploughing into the bridge in darkness. The headlights of vehicles could be seen on the bridge as it crashed into the water and the ship caught fire.

The same ship was involved in an accident in the port of Antwerp, Belgium, in 2016, when it hit a quay as it tried to exit the North Sea container terminal.

A later inspection in June 2023 carried out in San Antonio in Chile found the vessel had “propulsion and auxiliary machinery” deficiencies, according to data on the public Equasis website, which provides information on ships.

Rare event
Tuesday’s disaster may be the worst US bridge collapse since 2007 when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate.

Moore, the governor, declared a state of emergency to quickly deploy federal resources to deal with the emergency. The FBI in Baltimore said on X its personnel were on the scene.

The Dali was chartered by shipping company Maersk at the time of the incident, the Danish company said in a statement.

“We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected,” Maersk said.

Baltimore port’s private and public terminals handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any US port. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal, according to a Maryland government website.

The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 26, 2024. The bridge collapsed early March 26 after being struck by the Singapore-flagged Dali, sending multiple vehicles and people plunging into the frigid harbor below. There was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the disaster, but Baltimore’s Police Commissioner Richard Worley said there was “no indication” of terrorism. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP)The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: AFP / Mandel Ngan
The port handles imports and exports for major automakers including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and the Volkswagen group – including luxury models for Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.

General Motors and Ford Motor will reroute affected shipments, but the companies said the impact will be minimal.

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed. At least 30 other ships had signalled their destination was Baltimore, the data showed.

This story was originally published by Reuters.

VIA RNZ

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Woman charged with murder after man found dead in Hamilton

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A 45-year-old woman has been charged with murder after a man died at a house in Hamilton early on Wednesday morning.

Police were called to an address on Cranmer Close, Rototuna at 2am, Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Neilson said.

There they found the man in a critical condition. Attempts by police and ambulance staff to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Police earlier said they would have a “significant” presence in the area while inquiries were made.

Neilson said the man and woman knew each other.

“Police are speaking with those involved and are offering support to the victim’s family.”

VIA RNZ

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Bainimarama and Qiliho found guilty after appeal

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Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho have been found guilty by the Suva High Court.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution had appealed the matter following the acquittal of the two by the Suva Magistrates Court.

Bainimarama was charged with one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice, while Qiliho was charged with one count of abuse of office.

Bainimarama had directed the suspended Police Commissioner to stop an investigation into a police complaint on a University of the South Pacific matter sometime in July, 2020.

Magistrate Seini Puamau acquitted them in October last year.

This morning, the two were found guilty, and the matter has been remitted back to the Magistrates Court.

Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo says he accepts all the evidence of the state witnesses as he finds them credible.

He says it was apparent that as in the first responders case that the problem emanated from the allege financial abuse and mismanagement by the senior members of USP.

Justice Temo says he upholds the state grounds of appeals one, two, six, seven, and eight; however, he deems grounds three, four, and five unnecessary and a waste of the court’s time.

The Acting Chief Justice ordered that the matter be called before Magistrate  Puamau on the 18th of this month, where she will have to pronounce Bainimarama and Qiliho guilty as charged and convict them accordingly.

Justice Temo directed the accused lawyers to file mitigation and sentencing submissions for both responders by Monday.

The state will have to do the same.

He adds that Magistrate Puamau will have to hear the sentencing submissions next Thursday.

Justice Temo adds that the Resident Magistrate will have to pass the sentences for Bainimarama and Qiliho on the 28th of this month.

More to follow.

VIA FBC NEWS

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