Arab leaders, religious authorities condemn New Zealand attack

By AFP and regional media


Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque in Kilbirnie in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 15th, after a shooting incident at two mosques in Christchurch left at least 49 dead the same day. [Marty Melville/AFP]

Political and religious leaders across the Middle East on Friday (March 15th) condemned a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand which killed at least 49 people, with world leaders calling for solidarity with Muslim communities.

A 28-year-old Australian-born man armed with semi-automatic weapons rampaged through two mosques in the city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers on Friday, killing 49 worshippers and wounding dozens more.

The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she guided a shocked nation on one of its "darkest days", AFP reported.

Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".


The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-mast on a parliament building in Wellington on March 15th, after an attack on two mosques in Christchurch left at least 49 dead. [Marty Melville/AFP]

The perpetrator has been arrested and charged with murder, and is set to appear at the Christchurch District Court early Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.

'Sacrilegious, criminal attack'

Egypt’s Al-Azhar on Friday condemned the attack as a "sacrilegious, criminal attack" on a place of worship, and extended its sincere condolences to the families of the victims, Ahram Online reported.

"This horrific terrorist attack is a serious indicator of the consequences of rising rhetoric of hatred and xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia" in countries "known for the co-existence of their inhabitants", said Egypt’s Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb.

Al-Tayeb, who joined Pope Francis last month in the UAE to call for peaceful co-existence among religions, urged Western states to "increase efforts to support the values of tolerance and co-existence" within their societies.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, assured "all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity", AFP reported.

In a statement, Egypt’s foreign ministry stressed its support for New Zealand and the families of the victims, saying that "this vile terrorist act contravenes all humanitarian principles", Ahram Online said.

Egypt condemns the attack "in the strongest possible terms", the statement said.

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said the country denounces the "hideous terror crime against the mosques in New Zealand where worshippers believed it was safe and a sanctuary for prayer and tolerance", Naharnet reported.

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat voiced the kingdom’s rejection of terrorism and assaults on those living in peace and places of worship, the Jordanian news agency, Petra reported.

She called for a concerted and participatory international approach and efforts to counter terrorism in all its forms.

Jordan’s Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal also condemned the attack, saying he rejected all assaults on mosques, churches and places of worship.

Jordanians, Saudi reported wounded

Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said preliminary information indicates there are Jordanians among those injured in the attack.

The ministry said the Jordanian embassy in Australia is following up with concerned authorities in New Zealand to check on the injured Jordanians' status.

Gulf states also closed ranks on Friday in condemning the mosque attacks, AFP reported.

Saudi Arabia condemned the attack "in the strongest terms possible".

The foreign ministry said one Saudi citizen was lightly wounded in the attacks.

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, rejected "terrorism, extremism, regardless of motives, reasons" in a social media post.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE also all condemned the mosque attacks, which have sparked global revulsion.

The UAE's foreign ministry said Abu Dhabi stood in "full solidarity with the friendly state of New Zealand to confront extremism and terrorism and... safeguard the security and the safety of its citizens and all residents".

Bahrain said the killings ran "contrary to all religious principles, morals and human values".

Messages condemning the attack and expressing solidarity with the families of the victims poured into New Zealand from around the world, from the US, Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Norway, among many others.

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