30 Nov 2020

Federation of Islamic Associations releases submission to Royal Commission into terror attack

10:43 am on 30 November 2020

An investigation by a Muslim group suggests the country's security agencies downplayed the threat of a possible terror attack in New Zealand and misinformed the public.

The Al Noor mosque.

The Al Noor mosque. Photo: AFP

The Federation of Islamic Associations has taken the unusual step of publicly releasing its lengthy submission to the Royal Commission investigating the Christchurch mosque terror attacks.

The federation's report stated New Zealand's Muslim communities were following increasing terror attacks overseas and knew they were vulnerable to it happening here.

"We knew we were vulnerable to such an attack. We did not know who, when, what, where or how. But we knew. Our security narrative was true. The NZIC's [New Zealand Intelligence Community] official security was inaccurate, and misinformed New Zealand," it stated.

The 15 March mosque attack highlighted "systemic disfunction" in some government agencies, because they didn't consider the threat of a terror attack on Muslim communities here, it said.

New Zealand's intelligence community failed to anticipate or plan for the terror attack because of an "inappropriate concentration of, or priority setting for, counter-terrorism resources on other perceived terrorism threats."

The federation's report also stated the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet didn't adequately monitor possible risks.

"DPMC ... did not ... assess domestic and external risks of national security significance and coordinate policy advise and policy making to ensure that risks are managed appropriately," the report stated.

The report also pointed to the lack of diversity in the country's intelligence network.

The federation claimed Muslim communities were left "defenceless" because of the "systemic failures over decades to recruit, develop, and promote ethnically and religiously diverse staff that reflect the changing demographics, values, experiences and perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand."

Institutional racism in some organisations was also highlighted, with the federation stating the country's intelligence network "is not necessarily immune to this enduring structural issue in Aotearoa New Zealand."

The federation also claimed the terrorist would never have obtained a firearms license if officers had followed proper procedure, because his two referees did not meet police's own criteria.

To obtain a firearms license, police must verify someone's suitability by interviewing a spouse, partner or next of kin and someone over 20 years old who knows them well, but the federation claimed police interviewed two people the terrorist knew only through online gaming.

The federation also believed if police had properly carried out background checks on the gunman, he wouldn't have obtained the license and would have been on their radar as a potential threat.

Customs and immigration departments should have also been notified about the gunman's travel history, which would have indicated the possibility of extremist views, the federation stated.

"New Zealand's intelligence community and police could and should have known about the Christchurch terrorist because of his extremist behaviours online and offline, and monitored him closely for signs of intent and capability of perpetrating or financing a terrorist attack, whether in New Zealand or overseas, and the impact and immediacy of the potential attack."

The Royal Commission's report into the terrorist attack has been submitted to the government and will be shown to the families of the victims and survivors of the shooting before it is released publicly.

The government expects this will happen before Christmas.

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