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'They are us': Tributes paid to Christchurch shooting victims

At least 49 people have died after mass shootings at two mosques.

New Zealand Mosque Shooting People outside a mosque in Christchurch after the shootings Source: Mark Baker/AP

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has led tributes to people killed in mass shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

At least 49 people have been killed in what police described as a “well planned” attack with dozens of people also injured. There are reports of close to 50 people in hospital with gunshot wounds.

The two mosques which were targeted were filled with worshippers for Friday prayers.

Varadkar, who is visiting the United States for St. Patrick’s Day, has expressed “condolences” and “solidarity” with the people of New Zealand following the attacks. 

Irish people share a deep affinity with the people of New Zealand, whether it’s through rugby, travel or pride in our culture as small island nations.

“New Zealand and its people are open, tolerant and welcoming,” Varadkar said in a statement. “We join them today, united in our condemnation of this appalling attack and determined in our resolve that hate will not triumph.”

“I will be writing to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to express sincere sympathies and support. I would also like to pay tribute to the valiant work of Christchurch’s emergency services”.

Meanwhile, Ardern has described the shootings as a terrorist attack, saying today is “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

“Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” Ardern said this afternoon. 

“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.”

“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”

‘Stand in solidarity’ 

Police in Christchurch have said that one person, a man in his 20s, has been charged with murder and is due to appear in court tomorrow. 

Four people in total are now in custody – three men and one woman – and a number of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) have been discovered around the city. The explosive devices were attached to vehicles belonging to the detained suspects. None had detonated and were subsequently made safe by the military.

The attacks took place during lunchtime at mosques on Deans Avenue and Linwood Avenue.

Following the attacks, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan paid tribute to the victims saying he was “heartbroken”.

“My heart goes out to all the victims, their grieving families and friends,” Khan said, adding that Londonders “stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch.”

“We stand in solidarity to say that those who seek to divide us, to break our communities and destroy our way of life will never succeed.”

London mosques have been targeted in the past. One man died and several others were injured in 2017 when Darren Osborne drove a van into people leaving evening prayers. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said today that one of the Christchurch attackers was a “right-wing terrorist” with Australian citizenship. 

“We stand here and condemn, absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” an emotional Morrison told a press conference today.

“We are not just allies, we are not just partners, we are family,” he said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand rugby player Sonny Bill Williams paid an emotional tribute to the victims in a video posted on Twitter. 

President Michael D Higgins has also paid tribute saying today’s attacks “will have appalled people all over the world”.

“As President of Ireland may I offer the sympathy of the people of Ireland to the families of the victims, and express the solidarity of the people of Ireland with the people of New Zealand at this time.”

“This attack on innocent lives at spaces of worship for a religious community will be condemned by all those who believe in freedom and democratic values.”

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