President Donald Trump on Friday offered his “warmest sympathies” to the people of New Zealand after a gunman killed at least 49 people in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch.
New Zealand police say a 28-year-old man has been charged with murder for the attacks in which a shooter opened fire on two mosques full of worshippers at Friday prayer, livestreaming video of the attack that killed 49 and injured 48 others. They said two more have been arrested in connection with what they called an “unprecedented” attack, and that they had defused explosive devices in a car.
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In a tweet, President Donald Trump mourned the shootings as a senseless loss of life and offered support to New Zealand.
“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured,” he wrote. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
The president later Friday said that he doesn’t believe that white nationalism a rising threat around the world.
“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” Trump told reporters during a veto ceremony in the Oval Office.
“It’s certainly a terrible thing,” he said.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said in a statement that “the United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch,” adding that “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
Trump will be reaching out to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern later in the afternoon to discuss the attack, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp said Friday.
“I just spoke with the president,” Schlapp said in an interview on Fox News. “He made it very clear this is an act of terror, this is a horrific, evil crime especially targeting these innocent lives at a place of worship.”
The Associated Press reported that a man claiming responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto explaining his reasoning for the attack, saying that he was an Australian and a white supremacist.
Ardern called the mass shooting “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and said the attacks were “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
She also hinted at an anti-immigrant motive, saying in a news conference that the culprits likely hold “extremist views,” that they “have absolutely no place in New Zealand” and that many of the victims may have been migrants or refugees.
Other White House officials, as well as former President Barack Obama, weighed in on the massacre later Friday.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called on Americans to “remain vigilant so we can prevent such violent hate,” though she noted “there is no specific or credible threat to our homeland.”
“My heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families of the brutal violence in NZ. This was an act of terror,” she wrote in a tweet.
Attorney General William Barr denounced the apparent Islamophobic motivation for the attack.
“Violence on the basis of religion is evil,” he said in a statement. “Today’s attack in New Zealand is a sobering reminder that the threat of political and religious violence is real and that we must remain vigilant against it. The Justice Department joins in mourning with the people of New Zealand.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the “grotesque” attacks, and pledged America’s help.
“The United States condemns this hateful assault,” he said. “We pledge our unwavering solidarity with the government and people of New Zealand in this hour of darkness. And we stand ready to offer any and all assistance.”
National security adviser John Bolton said he had been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand overnight but stopped short of outright identifying the shooting as a terrorist attack.
“We’re obviously greatly disturbed by this, what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime in New Zealand,” he told reporters at the White House. He added that the State Department was still gathering details and said the U.S. planned to cooperate to any extent that it could or was needed in investigating the shooting.
Obama, who oversaw over half a dozen mass shootings during his time in the White House, wrote on Twitter that he and former first lady Michelle Obama were sending condolences to the people of New Zealand.
“We grieve with you and the Muslim community,” he added. “All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.”