Five Indians have been killed in the ghastly terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch in which 50 people lost their lives, the Indian High Commission said on March 17, as New Zealand grapples with the emotional fallout of its worst attack on Muslims.
The attacker, identified by authorities as Australia-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, reportedly targeted immigrants during Friday prayers. Witnesses said victims were shot at close range. The High Commission confirmed on March 17 that five Indians were killed in the attack. “With a very heavy heart we share the news of loss of precious lives of our 5 nationals in ghastly terror attack in #Christchurch,” it tweeted. It identified them as, Maheboob Khokhar; Ramiz Vora; Asif Vora; Ansi Alibava; and Ozair Kadir.
In another tweet later, the High Commission informed that Immigration NZ has set up a dedicated webpage to expedite visa for family members of Christchurch victims. The Indian mission also said that a support group has been established in Christchurch to assist the families. In another tweet, the Indian High Commission urged people to donate blood. “Blood donors reqd: there may be a need for blood donation for #Christchurch victims. If you are A+ or O+ please contact your nearest NZ blood bank branch. Thank you,” it said. The body of the 50th victim was discovered at the Al Noor mosque, where most victims were killed, when officials were removing the victims’ bodies on March 17, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, told reporters on March 18.
The victims’ names were not made public. While a preliminary list of the victims has been shared with families, Bush said their bodies have not yet been released. The number of wounded also increased to 50, he said. Of those, 34 remain hospitalised in the Christchurch Hospital and 12 are in critical condition, Greg Robertson, the hospital’s chief of surgery, said.
Shortly after the attack, India’s High Commissioner in New Zealand Sanjiv Kohli had tweeted that “there are 9 missing persons of Indian nationality/origin”. But, he had added, official confirmation was awaited. The high commission said its helpline numbers — 021803899 & 021850033 — will remain available round the clock to assist families of the those affected by the attack. “We deeply mourn loss of all other innocent lives including people of Indian origin.” It also said a group of Community leaders is being constituted in Christchurch and their names and numbers will be circulated shortly.
Meanwhile, it added, those who need assistance while transiting through Auckland may contact 021531212. In a 74-page manifesto the attacker posted online, he described himself as a white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the attack terrorism.
Expressing India’s solidarity with the people of New Zealand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said hatred and violence have no place in diverse and democratic societies. The mosque shootings by the white supremacist have shaken New Zealand, regarded as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. About 200,000 Indian and Indian-origin people live in New Zealand. Over 30,000 of them are students, according to the Indian High Commission’s data available on its website.