Christchurch mosque attacks: Victims want personal apologies, say action needed

11:13 am on 9 December 2020

Victims of the Christchurch terror attack say they'd like a personal apology from state agencies, and want to see individuals being held to account for failures leading up to the atrocity.

Wasseim Alsati.

Wasseim Alsati was shot along with his four-year-old daughter as they tried to flee the attacker. Photo: RNZ

Yesterday, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 2019 attack released its findings, outlining a list of failures by police and the security services.

Terrorist Brenton Tarrant went on a savage rampage at the Al Noor Mosque in Riccarton and then at Linwood Islamic Centre, killing 51 worshippers and physically wounding dozens of others.

During a media conference yesterday, Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and government agencies apologised for failings that contributed to the attacks, but some survivors expected more accountability and were also critical that the apology by state agencies was made through the media.

Temel Atacogugu, who was shot nine times by the gunman, told Morning Report he wanted to see a more personal approach and said change and action was also paramount.

He said the prime minister's speech in Parliament had referenced apologies from security agencies to the victims over the atrocity, but that had been the first he had heard of of any apology from these bodies.

"It was a good start so far after 21 months after the Royal Commission reports that they did apologise, but I wonder if the Royal Commission didn't publish it, whether they would have ever apologised," he said.

Atacogugu urged Ardern, the police and intelligence services to apologise to each victim directly as soon as possible.

He said negligence and systemic failures leading up to the attacks that made the attack possible meant individuals should be held accountable.

"Somebody has these responsibilities and has be held accountable and they can't run away from this path. They did a lot of mistakes about stopping the terrorist attack. For now, it cannot be guaranteed this could not happen tomorrow again."

Wasseim Alsati, who was shot along with his four-year-old daughter as they tried to flee the attacker, echoed his call.

He said apologies were important but these wouldn't bring anyone back to life and that action was needed.

"The apology is not enough... They need to be responsible, they need to act as well," he said.

He said families were still facing challenges and that help from government would need to be ongoing.

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