‘This can only be described as a terrorist attack,’ Jacinda Ardern has said from the New Zealand parliament, following a crisis meeting of NZ security chiefs in response to the mass murder at mosques in Christchurch. Below, an edited transcript of her remarks, and responses to journalists’ questions.
I have now had the opportunity to be fully briefed with the details of the unprecedented events that took place in Christchurch. It is with extreme sadness I can tell you that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence. Ten have died at Linwood Avenue mosque, three outside the mosque. A further 30 were killed at Deans Avenue mosque, and more than 20 are seriously injured, currently at Christchurch A&E.
It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.
From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects’ vehicles have been found and disarmed. Three people connected to the attack are in custody, one of which has publicly stated that they were Australian born.
These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.
While we do not have any reason to believe at this stage that there are other suspects, we are not assuming that at this stage. The joint intelligence group has been deployed and police are putting all of their resources into this situation.
I have spoken this evening to the mayor of Christchurch and I intend to speak this evening to the imam, but I also want to send a message to those directly affected.
In fact, I am sure right now New Zealand would like me to share a message on their behalf too.
Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many New Zealand was their choice, the place they actively came to and committed themselves to, the place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities that they loved and who loved them, it was a place that many came to for its safety, a place where they were free to practise their culture and their religion.
For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here, we, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things, because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those that share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.
We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages, and amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place currency on right now is our compassion and the support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy and secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people that did this.
You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.
If those involved were known from a security perspective, they were not on any active watch list. It’s not a matter of someone not having slipped under radar. It is early days, people are in custody, obviously being questioned.
We have undoubtedly experienced an attack that is unprecedented but New Zealand has been chosen because we are a place where violent extremism has been rejected. We will and must reject it. This is not an enclave for that kind of ideology. This is a place where people should and will feel secure. I am not going to let this change New Zealand’s profile.