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.
Milan, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — A bus driver in northern Italy abducted 51 children and their school chaperones Wednesday, threatening the hostages' lives for 40 minutes and setting the bus on fire at a Carabinieri blockade.
Officers from the national police force broke windows at the back of the bus to reach the passengers and got all of them out without serious injuries before flames destroyed the vehicle, authorities said.
The driver was apprehended and treated for burns. Prosecutors described him as a 47-year-old Italian citizen of Senegalese origin and said he told authorities he wanted to vindicate Europe-bound migrants who have died in the Mediterranean Sea but did not plan to hurt anyone.
However, prosecutors said the suspect, identified as Ousseynou Sy, made preparations that showed his actions were premediated, such as buying a canister of gasoline and restraints on Tuesday.
He also sent a video to friends in Italy and Senegal indicating plans for a bold action and with the message, "Africa, Rise up," they said.
Sy was being investigated on suspicion of kidnapping, intention to commit a massacre, arson and resisting law enforcement, with terrorism as an aggravating circumstance since the event caused panic. Prosecutors said they have found no evidence of Islamic radicalization or ties to extremists, saying it appeared the bus driver acted alone.
Chief prosecutor Francesco Greco praised the Carabinieri for moving swiftly to block the bus and remove the children.
"They carried out an operation that we see in films with special agents," Greco said.
"Thank goodness, because by then the intent to massacre had ignited, and the man was starting to set fire to the bus, as he did," he said.
Milan's provincial Carabinieri commander, Luca De Marchis, told broadcaster Sky TG24 that the bus was ferrying two middle-school classes between school and a nearby gym in Cremona province, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Milan.
The driver threatened the passengers, telling them "no one would survive today" as he commandeered the bus, De Marchis said.
Italian news agency ANSA quoted one of the students as saying the driver everyone's phones and ordered the chaperones to bind the students' hands with cable ties, threatening to spill gas and set the bus ablaze. ANSA said the chaperones only loosely bound several students' hands with the zip ties, not everyone's.
One of the middle school students described his terror in an interview with La Repubblica TV, his face obscured due to his age. His name was not given.
"We were all very afraid because the driver had emptied the gas canister onto the floor (of the bus.) He tied us up and took all the telephones so we could not call the police," the student said.
"One of the telephones, belonging to a classmate, fell to the ground, so I pulled off the handcuffs, hurting myself a bit, and went and picked it up. We called the Carabinieri and the police."
Authorities said that an adult called an emergency operator, while one of the students called a parent, and they alerted authorities, who set up roadblocks. The bus was intercepted on the outskirts of Milan by three Carabinieri vehicles, which were able to force it into the guardrail, De Marchis said.
"While two officers kept the driver busy — he took a lighter and threatened to set fire to the vehicle with a gasoline canister on board — the others forced open the back door, breaking two windows," De Marchis said. While the evacuation was still underway, the driver started the blaze.
De Marchis credited the officers' "swiftness and courage," for getting out all the children and their teachers "with no tragic consequences."
Some of the passengers were treated at a hospital, mostly for cuts and scratches related to the evacuation, he said.
Prosecutors confirmed that Sy, who became an Italian citizen in 2004, had been convicted in 2007 and 2011 of drunken driving and sexual molestation of a minor. Sky TG24 said that the driver had worked for the bus company for 15 years without any employment-related issues.
"Investigators must clarify how the transport company permitted such a delinquent ... to drive a bus, especially one carrying children," said Riccardo De Corato, a Milan provincial official for security.
Video showed firefighters dousing the bus that had been completely gutted by flames, leaving only the charred metal frame.
New Zealand, Mar 21 (AP/UNB) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning sales of military style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques.
Ardern announced the ban Thursday and said it would be followed by legislation to be introduced next month.
She said the man arrested in the attacks had purchased his weapons legally and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines "done easily through a simple online purchase."
An imam says he's expecting thousands of people at an emotional Friday prayer service a week after an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Six more funerals were being held Thursday for the 50 people killed last Friday.
Iman Gamal Fouda says he's been discussing plans for the prayer service with city officials and lawmakers and expects it will take place in a park across from Al Noor mosque, where at least 42 were killed.
Fouda expects 3,000 to 4,000 people, including many 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 attack. They will bury the blood-soaked carpet.
Utrecht, Mar 18 (AP/UNB) — A gunman killed three people and wounded nine others on a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, sparking a manhunt that saw heavily armed officers with sniffer dogs zero in on an apartment building close to the shooting.
Authorities immediately raised the terror alert for the area to the maximum level, and the city's mayor said a "terror motive" was the most likely theory. Dutch military police went on extra alert at Dutch airports and at key buildings in the country as the Utrecht manhunt took place.
A few hours after the shooting, Utrecht police released a photo of a 37-year-old man born in Turkey who they said was "associated with the incident." The photo showed a bearded man on board a tram, dressed in a dark blue hooded top.
Police warned citizens not to approach the man, whom they identified as Gokmen Tanis, but call authorities instead.
The Utrecht attack came three days after 50 people were killed when an immigrant-hating white nationalist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday prayers. There was no immediate indication of any link between the two events.
Police, including heavily armed officers, flooded the area after the shooting Monday morning on a tram at a busy traffic intersection in a residential neighborhood. They later erected a white tent over an area where a body appeared to be lying next to the tram.
Utrecht police said trauma helicopters were sent to the scene and appealed to the public to stay away.
Heavily armed anti-terror officers gathered in front of an apartment building close to the scene. A sniffer dogs wearing a tactical vest with a camera mounted on it was also seen outside the building.
Mayor Jan van Zanen confirmed three deaths and said that nine people were wounded, three of them seriously.
"We cannot exclude, even stronger, we assume a terror motive. Likely there is one attacker, but there could be more," van Zanen said.
"Our nation was hit by an attack in Utrecht," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. He said that "a terror motive is not excluded."
Rutte said that, throughout the country, "there is a mix of disbelief and disgust."
"If it is a terror attack then we have only one answer: our nation, democracy must be stronger that fanaticism and violence," he added.
Police spokesman Bernhard Jens said one possibility "is that the person fled by car." He did not rule out the possibility that more than one shooter was involved.
The Netherlands' anti-terror coordinator raised the threat alert to its highest level around Utrecht, a city of nearly 350,000 people. Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said the "threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province."
Dutch political parties halted campaigning ahead of provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the makeup of the Dutch parliament's upper house.
In neighboring Germany, police said they had stepped up surveillance of the Dutch border. Heinrich Onstein, a spokesman for federal police in North Rhine-Westphalia state, said additional officers had been detailed to watch not only major highways, but also minor crossings and railway routes.
German authorities were initially told to look out for a red Renault Clio compact sedan, but were later informed it had been found abandoned in Utrecht, Onstein said.