Australian police in major cities have increased security at mosques around the country in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shooting that killed at least 49 and injured 48 more.
The atrocity has prompted local authorities to step up their presence into the weekend, but they have assured Australians there was no imminent threat here, despite one of the men arrested over the attack identified as Brenton Tarrant, being from Grafton, New South Wales.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an Australian citizen is in custody after describing the attack as a “callous right-wing extremist attack by terrorists”.
It’s believed Tarrant is the man who live streamed himself performing a massacre inside the Masjid Al Noor in Hagley Park as hundreds gathered for Friday morning prayer.
New Zealand Police confirmed on Friday evening a 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court Saturday morning. It is not known if the man is the Australian reportedly involved in the massacre.
Two others remain in custody. Another person was arrested earlier, however, police say that was not involved in these events.
Australia rallies behind New Zealand
Australia’s leaders were quick to offer support for victims and our New Zealand cousins in mourning as the world is left stunned by the mosque attack.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who visited New Zealand just three weeks ago said: “We grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged”.
“I would just say to Australians and our New Zealand cousins – hug each other tonight. Hug each other tonight.”
Scott Morrison says the gunman was not known to Australian authorities, but there will now be an Australian based investigation into his background and associates.
Truly extraordinary scene at Lakemba mosque tonight. Worshippers spilling on to the street. Deep sense of sadness and mourning. A number of politicians here in support inc @DavidColemanMP @michaeldaleyMP @GladysB @JasonClareMP and many more. @7NewsSydney #TheLatest pic.twitter.com/PeCTURhcOC
— Alex Hart (@alexhart7) March 15, 2019
Inside the mosque. Pleas for calm from all. Attack “Not acceptable.. beyond any imagination”. pic.twitter.com/tI7J50ddEg
— Alex Hart (@alexhart7) March 15, 2019
In NSW, senior police members met on Friday for a high-level counter-terrorism briefing on the Christchurch shooting.
Lead by the head of counter terrorism Mick Willing, authorities are assessing what threat – if any – there is to us on Australian soil as a result of the attack, and devise a practical response to support their Kiwi counterparts.
It is expected that emergency workers, including police will be deployed to assist New Zealand authorities in coming days.
Victoria on high alert for Grand Prix following NZ terror attack
Victoria is on high alert as it hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix and a statewide mosque open day after the Christchurch terrorist attack.
The weekend global motorsport event had already attracted extra police attention, but Friday’s fatal events in New Zealand forced a reassessment.
“Can I reiterate that the safety of the Victorian community is of the highest concern for Victoria Police and we will be doing everything we can to reassure the community and to be visible to assist them not only to being safe but feeling safe,” Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Wendy Steendam said.
“To assist with this we are increasing patrols in and around places of worship and at all community events over the weekend… You will see a lot more police out and about this weekend.”
Mosques across Victoria have planned a community open day for this Sunday and were keen for them to go ahead, Ms Steendam said.
She encouraged people to go and support the Muslim communities, while also maintaining vigilance, with more police also planned to be patrolling close by.
A show of solidarity to our friends across the ditch, Melbourne’s buildings will be lit up in New Zealand colours tonight, and flags will be flown at half-mast tomorrow as a sign of respect, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said in a tweet.
“And the lights will go on at ACMI, Arts Centre, Flinders St Station, NGV, State Library and Melbourne Town Hall just after sunset,” he added.
Like Melbourne, Christchurch has been strengthened over generations by its proud multicultural communities. It came together to rebuild after an unprecedented earthquake. And it will come together again. To our NZ family who will be feeling shaken and shocked – arohanui.
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) March 15, 2019
Warning to heed caution despite ‘no credible threat’
Queensland police have responded swiftly to increase security at mosques across the state. They say there is no intelligence to suggest an imminent threat, but still they’ve activated counter terrorism capabilities.
The state’s Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said Queenslanders should be alert to their surroundings without being alarmed.
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He said police have told the multi-faith and multicultural communities in Queensland they will do everything they can to ensure their safety, even though they know there is no credible threat at this time in the state.
“It’s very important that people know they can go about their daily business, go about their prayers, go about their religious services without any fear,” he said.
“We also know that at times like these there is heightened concern in certain communities for backlash, for comment, for perhaps even assaults to occur.”
In Perth, authorities were quick to act after the massacre, with police patrolling local mosques within an hour of the shootings.
Friday is the busiest prayer day for the Islamic community, so officers spent time speaking with Islamic leaders and making sure local mosques were safe.
Perth’s Deputy Police Commissioner released a statement saying: “WA Police Force is working closely with national and international stakeholders, and local community groups, as investigations into this tragedy continue”.
“Officers are today reaching out to local communities to engage and support them.
“WA Police Force are ready to assist as required.”
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