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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.



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.


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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in strike in Afghanistan – Biden



Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, US President Joe Biden said, in the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3000 people.

US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday morning at 6.18am local time.

“Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “We never back down.”

US intelligence determined with “high confidence” that the man killed was Zawahiri, a senior administration official told reporters. No other casualties occurred.

“Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to US persons, interests and national security,” the official said on a conference call. “His death deals a significant blow to al Qaeda and will degrade the group’s ability to operate.”

There were rumours of Zawahiri’s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

His death raises questions about whether Zawahiri received sanctuary from the Taliban following their takeover of Kabul in August 2021. The official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in the city.

The drone attack is the first known US strike inside Afghanistan since US troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021. The move may bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that the United States can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles.”

Zawahiri succeeded bin Laden as al Qaeda leader after years as its main organizer and strategist, but his lack of charisma and competition from rival militants Islamic State hobbled his ability to inspire spectacular attacks on the West.

Until the US announcement, Zawahiri had been rumoured variously to be in Pakistan’s tribal area or inside Afghanistan.

A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumours that he had died.

The senior US official said finding Zawahiri was the result of persistent counterterrorism work. The United States identified this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that Zawahiri was there as well, the official said.

“Once Zawahiri arrived at the location, we are not aware of him ever leaving the safe house,” the official said. He was identified multiple times on the balcony, where he was ultimately struck. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Biden convened officials to scrutinize the intelligence. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed on 1 July on a proposed operation by intelligence leaders. On 25 July he received an updated report and authorised the strike once an opportunity was available.

A loud explosion echoed through Kabul early Sunday morning.

“A house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor. There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor, spokesman of the interior ministry, said earlier.

One Taliban source, requesting anonymity, said there had been reports of at least one drone flying over Kabul that morning.

With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the 12 October 2000 attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.

He was indicted in the United States for his role in bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 August 1998 that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5000 others.

Both bin laden and Zawahiri had eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by US forces in Pakistan. (RNZ)

– Reuters

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Armed police respond to incident on Auckland’s North Shore after four schools were put in lockdown



Armed police have been deployed to an incident on Auckland’s North Shore after some schools were placed in lockdown.

Takapuna Grammar, Belmont Intermediate, Belmont Primary, Bayswater Primary School, and Northcote Intermediate all went into lockdown just after 11am.

About quarter of an hour later the schools posted on Facebook saying the lockdown had lifted.

They said the lockdown was due to a police incident in the area.

Bayswater and Belmont’s posts said everyone was safe.

Police on Bardia Street in Belmont, Auckland.

An armed police officer at the scene of the incident. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Takapuna Grammar said students were safely inside buildings as instructed by police and the Ministry of Education.

Northcote Intermediate said its lockdown was over.

Police confirmed there had been a lockdown.

Police on Bardia Street in Belmont, Auckland.

Police at the incident. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Locals described seeing police cars speeding through the area.

Belmont Intermediate principal Nick Hill said the school was advised to go into lockdown as a precaution as there was a firearms incident in the area.

“Lockdown protocols were initiated and our parent community were made aware of the school going into lockdown.

“Our lockdown has since been lifted.”

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Breaking News

Former Fijian killed in Christchurch stabbing attack



Laisa Maraia Waka, aged in her 50s, was walking along the footpath on Cheyenne St in Sockburn when she was attacked by a man wielding a knife about 4.20pm on Saturday.
Former Fijiian was just metres from her home, where she lived with her husband and son.
A 37-year-old man appeared via audio visual link in the Christchurch District Court on today charged with her murder.
The man was granted interim name suppression, and was remanded in custody until July 15.
The case has been referred to the High Court at Christchurch.
Waka moved to New Zealand from Fiji several years ago .
On Sunday, Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price described the attack as “horrific, traumatic and random”.
The “senseless act” would have an “incredible impact” on the community, he said.
Waka had caught a bus home after work. She had walked alone about 300 metres from her bus stop when she was allegedly stabbed.
Residents and paramedics tried to save her life, but she died at the scene.

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