Fri, 19 Apr 2019

New Zealand Launching Fact-Finding Inquiry Into Mosque Attacks

Voice of America
25 Mar 2019, 16:06 GMT+10

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday a top-level investigation into the attack at a pair of mosques in Christchurch earlier this month that killed 50 people.

The inquiry is what is known in New Zealand as a royal commission, and carries the goal of figuring out not only what happened, but how future instances could be prevented.

'It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of how this act of terrorism occurred, and what, if any, opportunities we had to stop it are included,' Ardern told reporters.

She said the independent investigation will examine the shooter and his prior activities, the availability of semi-automatic weapons in New Zealand, the role of social media, and the work of police and intelligence agencies before the attack.

'New Zealand is not a surveillance state, and its been a very clear directive I think from members of the public,' Ardern said. 'But questions of course need to be answered around whether or not this was the activities of an individual that we could or should have known about, and the agencies themselves are welcoming independent oversight and investigation into that very question.'

The prime minister did not give a timetable as to when the probe will be complete. She said she understands the public does not want to be left waiting for answers, but that there needs to be time for the inquiry to be done properly.

Last week, Ardern announced an immediate ban on all military-style semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles in New Zealand. She said Monday work continues on gun control legislation, including possible actions related to licensing or a gun registry.

She also said her government has been receiving additional information from Facebook about its efforts to remove uploads of a live stream of the attack originally posted by the shooter. Ardern wants social media companies to make what she called 'meaningful change' to ensure such events are not repeated.

'Its not just for New Zealand though. We do need a global push because these are global platforms,' she said.

Ardern expressed sympathy for Muslims receiving threats following the attack, urging them to report any cases and assuring that police are taking them seriously.

'I think its devastating to know that when a community has been the subject of a direct attack like this that they would then be subject to threats. I think thats utterly despicable,' she said.

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