Thu, Mar 28, 2019 - Page 5 News List

NZ probes mosque attack links after standoff death

HIGH ALERT:The death came after the government ordered a judicial inquiry into whether the intelligence services could have prevented the March 15 attacks

AFP, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand

Christchurch police yesterday launched an urgent investigation to find out whether a man who died after an early morning standoff with armed officers had links to the mosque attacks that killed 50 people.

Police raided the 54-year-old man’s home on Tuesday night and found a cache of firearms after receiving a tip-off from the public about “suspicious behavior.”

They stopped the man in his vehicle in the Richmond Park area, just outside central Christchurch, and began negotiations that lasted for about three hours.

Police eventually approached the vehicle and found the man critically injured with a stab wound that soon claimed his life. They did not explain how he got the wound.

They said there were no firearms in the vehicle, which was also cleared by explosives experts.

“A high priority investigation is underway to determine whether or not the deceased man posed a threat to the community,” police said.

With the South Island city on alert after the massacre less than two weeks ago, police said they would also look for any links to the mosque attacks.

“At this time there is no evidence to suggest this person had any involvement in the attacks of March 15, however this forms an important part of the investigation,” they said.

Christchurch is to host a national memorial for the attack victims tomorrow.

It comes as New Zealand Minister of Justice Andrew Little said he was allowing spy agencies to carry out “intrusive” activities following the gun rampage.

The government this week ordered a judicial inquiry into whether the intelligence services could have prevented the attack amid criticism the white supremacist gunman went unnoticed as they were too focused on Muslim extremists.

Little said he had signed powerful surveillance warrants as information gathering continued in the wake of the attack.

“I have given authority to the agencies to do intrusive activities under warrant, the number of those [warrants] I’m not at liberty to disclose,” he told Radio New Zealand.

Little said intelligence services typically monitored 30 to 40 people, but that number had now increased, although he was unwilling to reveal by how much.

He said a warrant permitted anything from physical surveillance to the monitoring of telecommunications activity.

“The whole gambit of what would otherwise be described as intrusive activity,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

Little denied New Zealand had proved a “soft target” for the accused gunman, an Australian with apparent links to right-wing groups who reportedly moved to the nation with the intention of carrying out an attack.

Little said he maintained confidence in the intelligence services, adding it was “premature” to say they had failed until the inquiry into their actions was complete.

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