A recent threat made against the same New Zealand mosque where dozens of worshipers were gunned down during a weekly service has sparked a law enforcement investigation just two weeks before the the deadly mass shooting’s first anniversary.
New Zealand police on Monday confirmed they were looking into a concerning note shared on encrypted messaging service Telegram over the weekend, Stuff.co.nz reported. The threat, written in both Ukrainian and English, was accompanied by photo of man sitting on his car outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch.
His face is entirely concealed by a balaclava mask with the image of a human skull on it. Four people can be seen entering the house of worship in the photo’s background, according to the local news outlet.
The attached message claimed people at “the same mosque” in the photo would be greeting each other for “the last time” in coming days. It also included a gun emoji.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was “hard” to believe that anyone would so viciously target the Muslim community less than a year after it suffered one of its worst tragedies.
“I will be amongst many New Zealanders who will be devastated to see that, as we head towards the one-year anniversary of a most horrific terror attack on the Muslim community, that they should then be the target of this kind of activity,” she added.
Dozens of worshipers were gathered inside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch the morning of March 15, 2019 when a gunman – with a camera strapped to his head set to record the terror – unleashed a hail of bullets, killing 41 people.
From there, authorities said he drove several miles across the city and again opened fire inside a mosque in Linwood, killing 7 more people. Another three victims later died from their wounds, bringing the total number of fatalities to 51.
Caterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price told Stuff there will be a “heightened response” from police in the days leading up to the shootings one-year anniversary.
“We have increased patrols at the mosque and we’ve been working with the community and we also have the Eagle [helicopter] capability that will be providing reassurance and visibility around both mosques,” he said.
“This is not the New Zealand way, it’s not the way that we behave as a community and people will be held accountable for any behavior that’s not in line with the law.”
Price told RNZ that authorities were confident they would be able to quickly identify the man in the photo and anyone else involved in the threat.
“We have strong leads that we are following up and I am confident we will establish who this person is,” he said.
“It’s the wider context of what this stands for and what ideologies are out there that’s a concern for us. No one has the right to cause harm or make threats to other individuals or groups, it’s not the way we do things in New Zealand.”
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