Security increased at local mosques after New Zealand attack
Security has been increased around local mosques and other faith-based locations following the Wednesday attack in New Zealand that killed 49 people and injured 20 more.
The Muslim Educational Trust, 10330 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road, Tigard, opened its doors to the community on Friday, March 15, following the weekly Friday prayer service for an interfaith prayer gathering to honor victims of the New Zealand attack. (See story.)
"We call on faith leaders, civic leaders, law enforcement, people of good will and allies to join in countering Islamophobia, racism and bigotry in all its forms and embark a new path on building an inclusive, welcoming and tolerant future," said Sahar Bassyouni of the Muslim Educational Trust, in a written statement. "All forms of racism, bigotry, extremism, Islamophobia, racial supremacy and hatred need to be stopped."
"We are saddened to hear of the horrific attacks in New Zealand overnight," said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Kevin Allen. "In an abundance of caution, patrol officers are currently providing extra patrols to faith based locations throughout the city. We are proactively reaching out to the leaders of these communities to let them know we are doing this. We have a large immigrant population that is supported and loved. We are having officers, sergeants, and lieutenants making an effort to visit mosques, Muslim cultural centers and/or other conduits to the Muslim community and provide extra patrols if they are asked for them."
Ilyas Mohammed, one of the directors at the Vancouver, Washington, Islamic Society of Southwest Washington Mosque said, "This is a clear act of terrorism, and terrorism knows no bounds across religions. I pray for the deceased, their families as well as the perpetrator. May he find his way."
In New Zealand, three men and one woman were arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police there also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved. As of Saturday, the toll stood at 49 dead and 48 wounded.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for New Zealand early Friday morning. "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. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.
While there was no reason to believe there were any more suspects, Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised from low to high, the second-highest level.
National airline carrier Air New Zealand canceled at least 17 flights in and out of Christchurch, saying it couldn't properly screen customers and their baggage following the shootings.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this story.