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NZ PM, world leaders shocked

March 16, 2019 00:00:00

PARIS, Mar 15 (AFP): Attacks on two mosques in New Zealand which left at least 49 people dead on Friday -- the Muslim day of prayer -- have sparked horror, revulsion and dismay around the world.

"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing the attacks in the city of Christchurch as "one of New Zealand's darkest days."

Some countries have stepped up patrols around mosques following the rampage.

US President Donald Trump condemned as a "horrible massacre" the twin mosque attacks.

"My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured," Trump wrote on Twitter after the attacks in Christchurch.

Trump, whose rhetoric is sometimes aligned with the far right in the United States, added: "The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"

Moments before, his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate."

"The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," she added.

"With this attack, hostility towards Islam that the world has been has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond the boundaries of individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one... I am calling on the world, in particular the West, to take quick measures," he said.

"Murder of people at prayer, in their most holy and sacred place, is a depraved and despicable act. For people of all religions and of none, a red line has been crossed," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his official Twitter feed.

Official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as describing the shootings as a "horrific and heinous criminal act".

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg urged the international community to combat all forms of extremism after the Christchurch attacks, which revived painful memories of the 2011 mass killings in Norway by rightwing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

One of the weapons used in the Christchurch massacres was reportedly engraved with the name of Luca Traini, an Italian far-right militant who was jailed for racist shootings last year.

Traini's lawyer Gianluca Giulianelli said on the radio that his client had repented and "firmly dissociates himself" from the New Zealand killer.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini voiced his "absolute condemnation" of the New Zealand killings, in a statement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May offered deepest condolences "after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence."

Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand's head of state, said she and her husband Prince Philip sent condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives and paid tribute to emergency workers and volunteers providing support to the injured.

Pope Francis assured "all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity," the Vatican said.

The pope was "deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence," Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he hoped New Zealand "will arrest these terrorists and do the necessary under the law of the country."

Indonesian President Joko Widoyo, head of the world's largest Muslim country, said "we strongly condemn these kind of violent acts".

"Harrowing news from New Zealand overnight" said EU Council president Donald Tusk.

"The brutal attack... will never diminish the tolerance and decency that New Zealand is famous for."

"An attack against peaceful people gathering for prayer is shocking in its cruelty and cynicism," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she mourned "with New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques. We stand together against such acts of terrorism."

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed Merkel's message, condemning an "odious attack" and saying France "stands against any form of extremism".

Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez said his thoughts were with the victims, families and government of New Zealand after attacks by "fanatics and extremists who want to destroy our societies".

Gulf states, including rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar, closed ranks in condemning the mosque attacks in New Zealand that killed at least 49 worshippers and wounded dozens during Friday prayers.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home of its holiest sites, condemned "in the strongest terms possible the shootings at two mosques" in the city of Christchurch.

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

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, rejected "terrorism, extremism, regardless of motives, reasons" in a tweet carried by the official QNA news agency.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Doha in June 2017 and has imposed a boycott over allegations it supported Islamist extremists and Shiite Iran.

Qatar denies the allegations and says the boycott aims to incite regime change.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates 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".

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the deadly attack, saying, "It is clear that the understanding represented by the killer that also targets our country, our people and myself, has started to take over Western societies like a cancer."

The Turkish leader, who often criticises Islamophobic attitudes, called for the West to act to prevent similar attacks.

"If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one... I am calling on the world, in particular the West, to take quick measures," he said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the terror attack. The premier turned to Twitter to express his regret over the incident while offering prayers to the families of those affected and the ones parted.

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