New Zealand has a duty to support the Muslim community: Ardern

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Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a moving memorial service marking two years since the attacks on the Christchurch mosque that the country has “a duty” to support its Muslim community.

Hundreds of people attended the service, held under strict security, to remember the 51 people killed and dozens injured when a heavily armed gunman opened fire in two mosques on March 15, 2019.

Temel Atacocugu, who was shot in his face, arms and legs nine times, cried as he remembered waiting for treatment with three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim’s father when they learned the toddler had died .

“Suddenly my pain seemed insignificant,” he said.

Ardern, who has been widely praised for the compassion shown to the survivors and families of the shooting victims and for his swift decision to tighten gun control in New Zealand, said the words “despite their power to healing “would never change what happened.

“Men, women and children (…) were taken in an act of terror. Words will not erase the fear that has befallen the Muslim community,” she said, adding that the legacy should be “a more inclusive nation, proud of and embraces our diversity and, if called upon, fervently defends it.”

Atacocugu said it was a miracle he was still alive.

“I have since had seven major surgeries and there are more to come. I will carry a lot of shrapnel in my body for the rest of my life. Every time I have an x-ray, she lights up like a Christmas tree. “

Kiran Munir, whose husband Shaheed Haroon Mahmood was killed in the attack, told the service that the best revenge is “not to be like the enemy. We learn to rise up with dignity and move forward as best we can. can “.

The shooter, self-proclaimed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, was arrested minutes after the attacks on Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center.

He pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism, and was sentenced to life without parole last year, the first time a full life sentence was pronounced in New Zealand.

Police arrested a 27-year-old man in Christchurch last week and charged him with death threats following online threats against the same two mosques.

During the memorial service, armed police were stationed outside the venue and a sniffer dog checked the bags of people entering the building.

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