Christchurch attack: Five Indian victims identified

Christchurch: The Indian High Commission in New Zealand on Sunday confirmed that five Indians were killed in the Christchurch terror attack that claimed 50 lives.

“With a very heavy heart we share the news of loss of precious lives of our five nationals — Maheboob Khokhar, Ramiz Vora, Asif Vora, Ansi Alibava and Ozair Kadir — in the ghastly terror attack,” the Indian Mission tweeted.

“Our helpline numbers (021803899 and 021850033) will remain available round the clock to assist families as we together cope with our shared grief,” it said.

It also stated a dedicated page to expedite visa for family members of the victims has been set up by the New Zealand immigration office.

Fifty people were killed in shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Avenue Masjid in the city on Friday after 28-year-old Australian national Brenton Tarrant opened indiscriminate firings.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  called the killings “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and an “unprecedented” situation.

Brenton Tarrant  visited Pakistan, Turkey in recent years

The Australian man facing murder charges in the terrorist shootings at two New Zealand mosques was a frequent traveler who visited Pakistan, Turkey and Bulgaria, among other countries in recent years.

Tarrant had traveled to Turkey multiple times and “spent an extended period of time in the country,” CNN quoted a senior Turkish official on Saturday.

He also recently traveled to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, Bulgarian prosecutor general Sotir Tsatsarov told journalists, according to state news agency BTA. In 2016, Tarrant visited Montenegro and Serbia, Tsatsarov said.

Tarrant is also believed to have spent time in northern Pakistan. Speaking to CNN on Saturday, the owner of the Osho Thang Hotel in Nagar, in Pakistan’s northernmost Gilgit-Baltistan region, said Tarrant had visited his hotel in October 2018.

The hotel owner, who did not want to be named for security reasons, described Tarrant as a “regular tourist.”

“All I remember was that he was a fan of local food. He would leave the hotel in the morning and would come back in the evening,” he said.

Shortly before the shooting began, an 87-page manifesto was posted on social media under the name of Brenton Tarrant. The document was riddled with sarcasm, apparent red herrings and allusions to online meme culture, suggesting an internet-driven evolution of nationalist hatred.

Ardern questions Facebook

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday said she intends to ask Facebook how the Christchurch gunman, who slaughtered 50 people during Friday prayers, was able to livestream the massacre.

Using a GoPro camera, the terrorist on Friday broadcast extremely graphic footage of him shooting people at the Al Noor Mosque via Facebook Live. The livestream was available to watch on social media for hours after the attack, reported.

Besides being livestreamed on Facebook, the video, lasting 17 minutes, was shared repeatedly on YouTube and Twitter, before being removed by the social media giant.

In a press conference, Ardern was quoted as saying that the New Zealand Government did its best to take down the video, but its power to do so is limited.

“We did as much as we could to remove or seek to have removed some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack.

“Ultimately, though, it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal and support their removal.”

She disapproved of the social media giant Facebook’s incompetence at allowing graphic content to be uploaded and shared thus widely.

“Obviously these social media platforms have wide reach. This is a problem that goes well beyond New Zealand, it has played out in other parts of the world.

“So whilst we might have seen action taken here, that hasn’t prevented (the footage) being circulated beyond New Zealand shores.

“This is an issue that goes well beyond New Zealand, but it doesn’t mean we can’t play an active role in getting it resolved,” Ardern said.

Facebook has on its part said that as many as 1.5 million videos of the attack were removed from its platform in the first 24 hours.

“We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people… ,” Mia Garlick, Facebook New Zealand, wrote in a tweet.

“In the first 24 hours we removed 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload…

“Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we’re also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content,” Garlick added.

Ardern also said that in the wake of the Christchurch attacks, she has been in continuous contact with Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the report said.

“I haven’t spoken to her directly, but she has reached out in acknowledgement of what has occurred here in New Zealand. This is an issue that I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook,” Ardern noted.