0502 GMT March 22, 2019
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Friday massacre of Muslim people in New Zealand highlighted the need for “all out confrontation against… the Islamophobia pervasive in the West which is unfortunately encouraged by some Western governments.”
“This barbaric crime, which resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of innocent and defenseless worshippers, is another proof of the need for an all-out fight against terrorism and hate-mongering toward other religions and ethnic groups, and the Islamophobia which is common in the West, and unfortunately fueled by certain Western governments,” Rouhani said in his message published on his website after the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 49 worshippers and wounded dozens.
He promised Iran’s Foreign Ministry would “diligently” follow the “arrest and trial of the perpetrators of this heinous act.”
“This crime indicated that terrorism is still among the important issues of the world, and needs an integrated fight and a united approach by all countries against violence and extremism in any part of the world,” he noted.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is still committed to decisive fight against terrorism and racism, and is sure that, thanks to the unity and solidarity of Muslim people, such blind and aimless plots by the enemies would result in nothing but further disgrace for them,” he added.
Rouhani also called on the international community, particularly Muslim states, to show serious reaction to these anti-human crimes, and “disgrace the overt and covert sponsors of such moves.”
The Australian gunman behind the massacre, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders".
In his manifesto, Tarrant said he saw US President Donald Trump as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Suspect in court
The right-wing extremist charged over the horrifying attacks flashed a white power gesture as he appeared in court Saturday, while a shellshocked community began digging graves for the 49 people he stands accused of slaying.
28-year-old Tarrant stood largely impassive in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison smock, as the judge read the first of what are expected to be a host of murder charges he is likely to face.
Flanked by armed police, the former personal fitness trainer gestured an upside-down "okay" – a symbol used by white power groups worldwide.
He did not request bail and was remanded in custody until an April 5 court appearance.
Outside the courtroom, Christchurch residents struggled to deal with the aftermath of what is thought to be the worst act of terror against Muslims in the West.
Nearby, excavators were called in to remove the vast amount of earth needed to bury the dead, although police have not yet released the bodies to anxious families.
In a nearby hospital, doctors worked round the clock to treat 39 people for gunshot wounds and other injuries sustained in the attacks.
The wounded included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who was in critical condition.
The attack on the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in this usually peaceful country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.
Throughout the day people laid flowers at a makeshift memorial just beyond the police cordon around the Al-Noor mosque, where most of the victims died.
Many offerings were accompanied by handwritten letters laden with sadness and disbelief, from residents of what one local driver called the "city of sorrow".
"I am so sorry that you were not safe here. Our hearts are breaking for your loss," read one of the notes.
When the police tape was lifted late Saturday, bystanders spontaneously joined police in moving the stack of bouquets closer to the mosque.
An imam who was leading prayers at the Linwood mosque at the time of the attack said the Muslim community would not be shaken by the massacre.
"It was a very bad day, not just for all of us, all of New Zealand," said Ibrahim Abdulhalim. But, he added: "We still love this country".
Across New Zealand, Kiwis responded with interfaith solidarity – crowdfunding millions of dollars, donating halal food and even offering to accompany local Muslims now scared to walk the streets.
Muslims make up just one percent of New Zealand's population.
'I am with you'
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived in the city and, wearing a black headscarf, met with survivors and victims' families.
Ardern said the victims came from across the Muslim world, with Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia among the countries rendering consular assistance.
At least one Saudi citizen and two Jordanians were among the dead, while five Pakistani citizens were missing.
Ardern said the shooter was "in possession of a gun license" obtained in November 2017, and he started legally purchasing two semi-automatic weapons, reportedly AR-15s, two shotguns and a lever-action gun the following month.
Ardern said some of the guns had been modified to make them deadlier.
"I can tell you one thing right now – our gun laws will change," she said.
Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not clear. One man, 18-year-old Daniel Burrough, has been charged with incitement.
Press TV and AFP contributed to this story.