BRUSSELS (AP) — World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent anti-Islam sentiment.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the “latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.”
New Zealand police said 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack.”
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings. One of the suspects was later charged with murder.
Speaking at the funeral of a former minister, Erdogan said the anti-Islam hatred that motivated the attacks “has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed Erdogan.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he wrote in a tweet.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted that he learned of the attack “with horror and profound sadness.”
“The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life,” he wrote.
In France, home to western Europe’s largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.
“London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack,” he said. “London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy.”
London mosques have been targeted in the past. One man died and several others were injured in 2017 when Darren Osborne drove a van into people leaving evening prayers. Prosecutors say Osborne was motivated by a hatred of Muslims and far-right propaganda he found online.
Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted, “heartfelt condolences” to New Zealand.
“Our collective work against violence & hate must continue with renewed vigor. Our thoughts & prayers are with the families of the victims,” Gargash wrote.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas extended his country’s sympathies to the friends and families of the victims of the attack.
“The horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch targeted peacefully praying Muslims — if people are murdered solely because of their religion, that is an attack on all of us,” he said.
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