Indonesia, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) — A disaster official say days of torrential downpours have triggered flash floods and mudslides in mountainside villages in Indonesia's easternmost province, killing at least 50 people and injuring 59 others.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the disasters in Papua province's Jayapura district submerged hundreds of houses in neck-high water and mud. They also destroyed roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts.
He said 50 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday, and another 59 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones.
The dead included three children who drowned after the floods began late Saturday.
He said the number of dead will likely increase since many affected areas have not been reached.
More than 4,000 were people are in temporary shelters.
New Zealand, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) — Anguished relatives were anxiously waiting Sunday for authorities to release the remains of those who were killed in massacres at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, while authorities announced the death toll from the racist attacks had risen to 50.
Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours. But two days after the worst terrorist attack in the country's modern history, relatives remained unsure when they would be able to bury their loved ones.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police were working with pathologists and coroners to release the bodies as soon as they could.
"We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen," he said. "But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible."
Police said they had released a preliminary list of the victims to families, which has helped give closure to some relatives who were waiting for any news.
The scale of the tragedy and the task still ahead became clear as supporters arrived from across the country to help with the burial rituals in Christchurch and authorities sent in backhoes to dig new graves in a Muslim burial area that was newly fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.
The suspect in the shootings, 28-year-old white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in court Saturday amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge and said more would likely follow.
Bush said at a news conference Sunday that they found another body at Al Noor mosque as they finished removing the victims, bringing the number of people killed there to 42. Another seven people were killed at Linwood mosque and one more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.
Another 34 victims remained at Christchurch Hospital, where officials said 12 were in critical condition. And a young child who was in a children's hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.
Dozens of Muslim supporters gathered at a center set up for victims, families and friends across the road from the hospital, where many had flown in from around New Zealand to offer support. About two dozen men received instructions on their duties Sunday morning, which included Muslim burial customs.
Abdul Hakim, 56, of Auckland, was among many who had flown in to help.
"As soon as people die we must bury them as soon as possible," Hakim said. "We are all here to help them in washing the body, putting them in the grave."
Javed Dadabhai, who flew from Auckland after learning about the death of his 35-year-old cousin Junaid Mortara, said the Muslim community was being patient.
"The family understands that it's a crime scene. It's going to be a criminal charge against the guy who's done this, so they need to be pretty thorough," he said.
Still, it was hard, he said, because the grieving process wouldn't really begin until he could bury his cousin.
People across New Zealand were still trying to come to terms with the massacre that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
A steady stream of mourners arrived at a makeshift memorial outside the Al Noor mosque, where hundreds of flowers lay piled amid candles, balloons and notes of grief and love. As a light rain fell, people clutched each other and wept quietly.
Under a nearby tree, someone had left a potted plant adorned with cut out red paper hearts. "We wish we knew your name to write upon your heart. We wish we knew your favorite song, what makes you smile, what makes you cry. We made a heart for you. 50 hearts for 50 lives."
Tarrant, the suspect, had posted a jumbled 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter.
The gunman livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at the Al Noor mosque, where he sprayed worshippers with bullets. Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.
The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.
Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally.
"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern said.
She did not offer too much detail, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.
Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Serbia, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) — The white supremacist suspected in the mosque shootings that left at least 50 people dead in New Zealand had traveled to the Balkans in the past three years, where he toured historic sites and apparently studied battles between Christians and the Ottoman empire.
Authorities in Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia have confirmed that Brenton Tarrant, 28, had been to their countries in 2016-2018. Hungarian counterterrorism authorities also suggested that Tarrant had visited but revealed no other information, and local media in Bosnia reported a 2017 trip there.
While the details of Tarrant's travels are sketchy, authorities in those countries said they are investigating his movements and any contacts he might have had with local people.
During his unprecedented, live-streamed shooting spree Friday in Christchurch, Tarrant exposed his apparent fascination with the religious conflicts in Europe and the Balkans — a volatile region that has been the site of some of Europe's most violent clashes.
Tarrant's soundtrack as he drove to the Christchurch mosque included a nationalist Serb song from the 1992-95 Bosnian war that tore apart Yugoslavia. The song glorifies Serbian fighters and former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic — the man jailed at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.
Tarrant's rifles contained the names of legendary Serbs and Montenegrins who fought against the 500-year-rule of the Muslim Ottomans in the Balkans, written in the Cyrillic alphabet used by the two Orthodox Christian nations.
In a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media, Tarrant said he was a white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
While Serbia and Bosnia have not confirmed that Tarrant had visited, police in neighboring Croatia issued a brief statement Saturday saying he was in the country in December 2016 and January 2017. It was not known if his stay was continuous.
Croatia's 24 sata (24 hours) news site said Tarrant left Croatia by plane from the capital Zagreb on Jan. 18, 2017, after visiting the Adriatic coastal cities of Porec, Zadar, Sibenik and Dubrovnik, where he mostly stayed in hostels.
"Until that moment yesterday (in New Zealand), that person was not in the focus of our institutions," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters Saturday, according to the official HINA news agency.
In Bosnia, the local Klix.ba news portal reported that Tarrant arrived in that country from Montenegro in early January 2017.
Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, said Friday that Tarrant last year rented a car and toured more than a dozen cities, visiting historic sites from Nov. 9 to Nov. 15. He was mainly interested in the battles between Christians and the Ottoman army, the prosecutor said.
The Interior Ministry said Bulgaria is coordinating with counterterrorism teams from various countries, including the United States, over Tarrant. An investigation has been launched into whether he had contacts with local citizens, authorities said.
"So far, we do not have any evidence that Tarrant had been involved in terror activities during his stay in Bulgaria," the Interior Ministry's chief secretary, Ivaylo Ivanov, said.
He said police are checking all places and all people he possibly contacted during his weeklong stay in the country last November.
Turkey is also investigating Tarrant's movements during his two reported visits to the country that straddles Europe and Asia and who had three citizens injured in Friday's slaughter.
State broadcaster TRT says Tarrant visited Turkey twice in 2016 — on March 17-20 and from Sept. 13 to Oct. 25. The station released a security camera image of him arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.
Hungary's Counter-Terrorism Center suggested in an email to The Associated Press that he also visited there, saying they are cooperating with other countries to "fully examine the circumstances of (Tarrant's) Hungarian trip and stay."
"The details and phases of this process — for understandable reasons — are not public," the center said.
In Bosnia, many residents said the massacre in New Zealand and Tarrant's mention of Karadzic, who has been convicted of genocide, have brought back their own horrific memories of the Bosnian war, which killed more than 100,000 people.
"This (attack) is more proof that Karadzic's ideology is a motive for killings and terrorism," said Adel Sabanovic, a Muslim from the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo and a survivor of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which Bosnian Serb troops killed some 8,000 Muslim boys and men. "It must be condemned in strongest possible terms."
A YouTube video for the song that Tarrant played in his car on the way to gunning people down at the mosque in Christchurch shows emaciated Muslim prisoners in Serb-run detention camps during the war. "Beware Ustashas and Turks," says the song, using wartime, derogatory terms for Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims used by Serb nationalists.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the New Zealand shooting is "a terrible crime conducted by a psychopath." He criticized foreign and domestic media for somehow implying that Serbs should be blamed for the crime because of the gunman's "taste for music."
Zimbabwe (AP/UNB) — Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been hit by a vicious cyclone that has killed nearly 150 people, left hundreds more missing and stranded tens of thousands who are cut off from roads and telephones in mainly poor, rural areas.
Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people in the three southern African countries, according to the U.N. and government officials.
Hardest hit is Mozambique's central port city of Beira where the airport is closed, electricity is out and many homes have been destroyed. The storm hit Beira late Thursday and moved westward into Zimbabwe and Malawi, affecting thousands more, particularly in eastern areas bordering Mozambique.
Homes, schools, businesses, hospitals and police stations have been destroyed by the cyclone. Thousands were marooned by the heavy flooding and, only caring for their lives, abandoned their possessions to seek safety on higher ground.
U.N. agencies and the Red Cross are helping with rescue efforts that include delivering food supplies and medicines by helicopter in the impoverished southern African countries.
Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi said the damage is "very worrisome" and said that the flooding made it difficult for aircraft to land and carry out rescue operations, according to Mozambique's state radio.
In Zimbabwe, 31 people have died from the floods so far, according to the government. The deaths are mainly in Zimbabwe's Chimanimani, a mountainous area along the eastern border with Mozambique that is popular with tourists. No tourist deaths were recorded, said government spokesman Nick Mangwana.
Roads and bridges were swept away, slowing rescue efforts by the military, government agencies and non-governmental organizations, he said.
The dead included two school students who were among dozens of children trapped in a dormitory after rocks fell from a nearby mountain, said Mangwana. Zimbabwe's military is trying to rescue the 197 students at the school, although unsafe conditions are forcing the soldiers to use ground efforts rather than attempt an air rescue, the government's ministry of information said later.
Zimbabwe state television station, ZBC, reported that 150 people are missing.
"We are receiving tragic reports of some people being swept away. We urge patience as rescue is on its way," Zimbabwe's information ministry said in a tweet, although power cuts and communications breakdown in affected areas means the warning might reach just a few.
In Malawi, people "are now facing a second threat of flash floods" following the cyclone, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Twitter.
South Africa's military has sent in aircraft and 10 medical personnel to help in Mozambique and Malawi, it said in a statement Saturday.
Christchurch, Mar 16 (AP/UNB) — When the gunman advanced toward the mosque, killing those in his path, Abdul Aziz didn't hide. Instead, he picked up the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, and ran outside screaming "Come here!"
Aziz, 48, is being hailed as a hero for preventing more deaths during Friday prayers at the Linwood mosque in Christchurch after leading the gunman in a cat-and-mouse chase before scaring him into speeding away in his car.
But Aziz, whose four sons and dozens of others remained in the mosque while he faced off with the gunman, said he thinks it's what anyone would have done.
The gunman killed 49 people after attacking two mosques in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand's modern history.
The gunman is believed to have killed 41 people at the Al Noor mosque before driving about 5 kilometers (3 miles) across town and attacking the Linwood mosque, where he killed seven more people. One person died later in a hospital.
White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder in the slayings and a judge said Saturday that it was reasonable to assume more charges would follow.
Latef Alabi, the Linwood mosque's acting imam, said the death toll would have been far higher at the Linwood mosque if it wasn't for Aziz.
Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque at about 1:55 p.m. and stopped the prayer he was leading and peeked out the window. He saw a guy in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun, and assumed it was a police officer. Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities.
"I realized this is something else. This is a killer," he said.
He yelled at the congregation of more than 80 to get down. They hesitated. A shot rang out, a window shattered and a body fell, and people began to realize it was for real.
"Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that's how we were saved," Alabi said, referring to Aziz. "Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone."
Aziz said as he ran outside screaming, he was hoping to distract the attacker. He said the gunman ran back to his car to get another gun, and Aziz hurled the credit card machine at him.
He said he could hear his two youngest sons, aged 11 and 5, urging him to come back inside.
The gunman returned, firing. Aziz said he ran, weaving through cars parked in the driveway, which prevented the gunman from getting a clean shot. Then Aziz spotted a gun the gunman had abandoned and picked it up, pointed it and squeezed the trigger. It was empty.
He said the gunman ran back to the car for a second time, likely to grab yet another weapon.
"He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window," he said.
The windshield shattered: "That's why he got scared."
He said the gunman was cursing at him, yelling that he was going to kill them all. But he drove away and Aziz said he chased the car down the street to a red light, before it made a U-turn and sped away. Online videos indicate police officers managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.
Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Aziz said he left as a refugee when he was a boy and lived for more than 25 years in Australia before moving to New Zealand a couple of years ago.
"I've been to a lot of countries and this is one of the beautiful ones," he said. And, he always thought, a peaceful one as well.
Aziz said he didn't feel fear or much of anything when facing the gunman. It was like he was on autopilot. And he believes that God, that Allah, didn't think it was his time to die.