London: Scotland Yard on Friday said that officers will be undertaking extra patrols around mosques in the UK in the wake of the terror attacks on New Zealand mosques in which 49 people have been killed. The Metropolitan Police is monitoring the situation since the mass shootings at Christchurch and remained on stand-by to offer support to its counterparts in New Zealand, Scotland Yard’s Indian-origin National Policing Lead for Counter-Terrorism Neil Basu said.
“We will be stepping up reassurance patrols around mosques and increasing engagement with communities of all faiths, giving advice on how people and places can protect themselves,” the UK’s senior-most counter-terrorism official said. “Our international network of UK counter terrorism officers will be ready to support our counterparts in New Zealand in responding to and investigating this appalling attack,” said Met Police Assistant Commissioner Basu.
Expressing his condolences to all those affected in the attack, Basu said his team stands together with the Muslim communities and all other communities as well as partners in the UK and overseas to work with them to counter the threat “no matter where it comes from”.
“Together with our intelligence partners, we continually monitor the varied threats we face, including to and around places of worship and specific communities across the country, to ensure we have the most appropriate protective security measures in place to keep people safe,” he said.
Basu’s statement came as it emerged that senior counter-terrorism experts and security services personnel are set to hold talks with UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid on how mosques in the UK can best be protected.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who described the attacks as “heartbreaking”, reiterated that there would be “highly visible policing around mosques today, as well as armed response officers, as Londoners go to pray”.
Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Theresa May led condolences from the UK following the deadliest terror attack in New Zealand’s history.
The Queen said her “thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders at this “tragic time”.
She said: “Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured”.
Other members of Britain’s royal family also offered their condolences, with Princes William and Harry and their wives, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, issuing a joint message describing the attack as “senseless”. They ended the message with the Maori words Kia Kaha, meaning “stay strong”.
“On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence,” said May.
MPs observed a minute’s silence in the House of Commons and flags over Downing Street are flying at half-mast as a sign of mourning.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a visit to Glasgow Central Mosque on Friday as she said the events in New Zealand “will feel very personal and close to home” for Scotland’s Muslims.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attack as one of the nation’s “darkest days”.
At least 49 worshippers were killed in attacks on the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and the Linwood Mosque in the city’s outer suburb, in what appeared to be the worst attack on Muslims in a western country.
Witnesses said that victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed. The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.