Baghdad, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — An Iraqi health official says the death toll from a ferry disaster in the Tigris River near Mosul has climbed to 83.
The ferry, said to have been overloaded, capsized with more than one hundred people on it, many of them women and children who had been celebrating the Kurdish new year and Mother's Day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.
The accident was the worst in recent memory, and the death toll was expected to rise.
Iraqi TV said a court in Mosul detained nine workers operating the ferry and issued an arrest warrant for the owner of the tourist island where it was headed.
Iraqi officials say the death toll from the sinking of a ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year in northern Iraq has risen to 71.
Maj. Gen. Saad Maan, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, says 71 people died and another 55 have been rescued, including 19 children.
Officials say the ferry sank in the Tigris River near the northern city of Mosul because of a technical problem, and that there weren't many boats in the area to rescue people.
An Iraqi official says a ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year sank in the Tigris river near Mosul, killing at least 40 people.
Col. Hussam Khalil, head of the Civil Defense in the Nineveh province, told The Associated Press that the accident occurred on Thursday as scores of people were out in the tourist area celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish new year and the arrival of spring.
Khalil says many of the dead were women and children, adding that search operations are still underway.
London, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — Counter-terrorism officers in central England are investigating attacks on five mosques in which windows were apparently shattered by a sledgehammer.
The attacks in Birmingham are being treated as linked. No motive has been established.
The incidents in Birmingham come just days after an attacker killed 50 worshippers in two mosques in New Zealand. The attack last week prompted many leaders in the U.K. to reach out to Muslims and offer support and reassurance.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid says that the Birmingham attacks are "deeply concerning."
In a tweet, Javid stressed that "hateful behaviour has absolutely no place in our society & will never be accepted."
Birmingham City Council cabinet member Waseem Zaffar wrote on Twitter that the community "will fight back against any hate and division with love, peace and harmony."
Christchurch, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced a ban of "military-style" semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like those used in the shootings at Christchurch mosques last week.
Ardern said a sales ban was effective immediately to prevent stockpiling and would be followed by a complete ban on the weapons after new laws were rushed through.
She said people could hand over their guns under an amnesty while officials develop a formal buyback scheme, which could cost up to 200 million New Zealand dollars ($140 million).
The man charged in the mosque attacks had purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines "done easily through a simple online purchase," Ardern said.
"Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned," she said.
The ban includes any semi-automatic guns or shotguns that are capable of being used with a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds. It also extends to accessories used to convert guns into what the government called "military-style" weapons.
It does not include semi-automatic .22 caliber or smaller guns that hold up to 10 rounds or semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns with non-detachable magazines that hold up to five rounds. The guns not banned are commonly used by farmers and hunters.
The government said the police and military would be exempt as would businesses carrying out professional pest control. Access for international shooting competitions would also be considered.
There are nearly 250,000 licensed gun owners in New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million people. Officials estimate there are 1.5 million guns in the country.
Ardern's announcement comes as authorities announced that all 50 bodies from the attacks were formally identified and families were burying their loved ones.
At least nine funerals took place Thursday, including for a teenager, a youth soccer coach and a Muslim convert who loved connecting with other women at the mosque.
After Ardern's announcement, one of New Zealand's largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, reiterated its support of "any government measure to permanently ban such weapons."
"While we have sold them in the past to a small number of customers, last week's events have forced a reconsideration that has led us to believe such weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country," chief executive Darren Jacobs said in a statement.
Regardless of the ban, the company would no longer stock any assault-style firearms of any category and would also stop selling firearms online, he said.
Although the exact weapons used in the mosque attacks have not been made public, images of them posted by the gunman show at least one of them to be a semi-automatic rifle similar to an AR-15 that is widely available in New Zealand. Semi-automatic refers to a firearm's ability to self-load, not only firing a bullet with each trigger pull, but also reloading and making the firearm capable of firing again.
The military versions most resembling the AR-15 rifle are the M16 and M4 carbines, which can fire in semi-automatic mode, three-round burst mode or fully automatic mode.
Many different types of firearms, from pistols to rifles and shotguns, can be semi-automatic. Semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 can often be modified with aftermarket parts, or accessories, to fire in fully automatic mode and instructions can often be found on the internet.
Polly Collins, 64, of Christchurch, was thrilled to hear of Ardern's announcement as she visited a flower memorial for the victims.
"The prime minister is amazing," she said. "It's not like in America, where they have all these things and then they go 'Oh yeah, we'll deal with the gun laws,' and nothing's done."
At the cemetery, solemn farewells continued for Cashmere High School student Sayyad Ahmad Milne, 14, who was known as an outgoing boy and the school's futsal goalkeeper. Tariq Rashid Omar, 24, graduated from the same school, played soccer in the summer and was a beloved coach of several youth teams and was also buried Thursday.
In a post on Facebook, Christchurch United Football Club Academy Director Colin Williamson described Omar as "a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching."
Linda Armstrong, 64, a third-generation New Zealander who converted to Islam in her 50s, was also buried, as were Hussein Mohamed Khalil Moustafa, 70, Matiullah Safi, 55, and Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said all 50 victims had been identified as of Thursday and their families were being notified. Investigators also were trying to conclude their work at the two mosques.
"We are working to restore them in a way that is absolutely respectful," he said.
An Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, was arrested by police who ran him off the road while he was believed to be on his way to a third target. He had livestreamed the attack on Facebook and said in his manifesto he planned to attack three mosques.
Also on Thursday, police said they'd inadvertently charged Tarrant with the murder of a person who is still alive.
Police said in a statement they had apologized to the person incorrectly named on the document and would change the charge sheet. They said the charge remains valid, so there was no chance the suspect would be released as a result of the error.
Police did not offer further details of what went wrong or make anybody available for an interview.
The name of the person on the charging sheet has been suppressed by court order. Officials said more charges against Tarrant would follow.
Tarrant, 28, is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5, and Bush said investigations into him were continuing. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support.
Meanwhile, preparations were underway for a massive Friday prayer service to be led by the imam of one of the mosques where worshippers were killed.
Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at the prayer service, including many who have come from abroad.
Workers at the Al Noor mosque have been trying feverishly to repair the destruction, Fouda said.
"They will bury the carpet," he said. "Because it is full of blood, and it's contaminated."
Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.
New Zealand, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — An imam says he's expecting thousands of people at an emotional Friday prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, a week after a gunman killed 42 people at his mosque and 50 people in all.
Gamal Fouda says he's been discussing plans for the prayer with city officials and lawmakers and expects it will take place in a large park across from Al Noor mosque.
Fouda says he's expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people, including many coming from abroad. He said members of the Linwood mosque, where the gunman killed seven people, also would attend the joint prayer.
He says mosque workers have been feverishly working to repair the destruction from the March 15 attack. They will bury the blood-soaked carpet.
Meanwhile, at least two more funerals were taking place Thursday at a Muslim cemetery in Christchurch.
A resident of the United Arab Emirates who worked for a security firm was detained and deported after making comments on Facebook celebrating the New Zealand mosque attacks that killed 50 people.
Transguard Group says its employee, who was not identified, made the comments on his personal Facebook page under an assumed name. Transguard says the employee was stripped of his security credentials, fired and handed over to authorities.
It says the UAE, where the official religion is Islam, deported him. Transguard, which is part of the Emirates aviation group in Dubai, did not elaborate.
The UAE's National newspaper said Wednesday the employee was believed to be a security officer whose Facebook post celebrating Friday's shooting included reference to a deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir last month.
New Zealand's deputy prime minister has expressed condolences for Indonesian victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
Winston Peters spoke Wednesday while in Jakarta for a meeting with other leaders on Indo-Pacific cooperation.
Lilik Abdul Hamid, an aircraft maintenance engineer at Air New Zealand, was killed in the Al Noor mosque. Two other Indonesians, a father and son, were seriously wounded.
Peters also expressed his appreciation of Indonesia's support during a difficult time for New Zealand. Earlier Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla expressed his gratitude that the suspect in the killings of 50 worshippers at the two mosques last Friday was arrested quickly.
Saying "our country changed forever," Peters vowed the government would not detour from the sight of the victims and that questions about gun reforms would be answered quickly.
He said, "This time next week you will see the principles behind what we have said developing into a new law to go to the Parliament."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the gunman who killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques is no different from the militants of the Islamic State group.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Erdogan also called on Western leaders to learn from "the courage, leadership and sincerity" of New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and "embrace Muslims living in their respective countries."
The opinion piece's headline read: "The New Zealand killer and the Islamic State are cut from the same cloth."
Erdogan said the West "must reject the normalization of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia."
Separately, the Turkish president has been criticized for showing excerpts from video of the mosque attacks and for comments about the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.
Sydney, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — Authorities on Thursday were moving about 2,000 people inland from part of Australia's northern coast ahead of a powerful cyclone expected to hit on Saturday.
Evacuees were being moved by air and road from remote, mostly indigenous communities on the east coast of the Northern Territory to its capital, Darwin.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said Cyclone Trevor with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (200 kph) and gusts up to 160 mph was expected to bring heavy rainfall and a dangerous storm surge.
An emergency was declared in communities along the western Gulf of Carpentaria where Trevor is expected to make landfall, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
At landfall, Trevor is forecast to be a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone, roughly similar to a Category 2 or 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale used in the U.S.
It's the largest cyclone-related evacuation in the Northern Territory since Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974, leaving 71 people dead and forcing the evacuation of 30,000 people.
Gunner said the decision to evacuate the communities in the cyclone's path was due to their remoteness.
Almost 1,000 residents had been evacuated by late Thursday from the towns of Groote Eylandt and nearby Numbulwar, Gunner said. Most of Borroloola's 900 residents were expected to be evacuated, along with several smaller communities. Most would be housed in temporary accommodations in Darwin, Gunner said.
Trevor earlier crossed the Cape York peninsula in northern Queensland state, causing flooding, closing roads and knocking out power. No fatalities have been recorded.