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Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the perception that police were aware of information which could have prevented the Christchurch terror attack is “incorrect”.
Gamal Fouda, the Imam at Al Noor Mosque – one of two mosques targeted on March 15, claimed the accused gunman may have had help from other people in planning the attack.
Fouda told Newshub he made direct warnings about suspicious European visitors. He went on to say the police dismissed his concerns as “not serious”.
Bush has declined to be interviewed by Newshub but released a statement on Tuesday saying: “I am very keen to address these claims, and the incorrect perception that police were aware of information that could have prevented the attack.
“I fully understand that questions are being asked, and they are the very questions which the Royal Commission of Inquiry has been established to address.”
The inquiry will look at the alleged shooter’s use of social media, his arrival and residence in New Zealand, how he got a firearms licence, what agencies knew before the attack and how they responded.
“We must be very careful about pre-empting matters which will be traversed by the Royal Commission of Inquiry,” Bush said.
“This is why I have not participated in an interview on this subject this week.
“Nevertheless I do wish to address these claims, and police will be consulting with the Royal Commission of Inquiry to discuss where we can quickly and fully respond.”
Fouda told Newshub the first warning was one evening in late 2017, when two Europeans visited the mosque and were so rude to two worshippers, they were reported to police.
“We had two people here and they told them they are Muslims as well and these people in the mosque are not Muslims.
“And why do you come to our country? You can go back – one Somali person and a Bangledeshi person – and they swear at them with the ‘f’ word and we report them to the police,” Fouda told Newshub.
“I said ‘This is very dangerous… not only against Muslims, but against New Zealanders. So be careful, check them out’ and they said ‘No no this is not serious, we have other things to do’.”
Fouda said there was another concerning European visitor – not the accused gunman – just three weeks before the massacre.
“He was not focusing with me, and when I asked about his name, he said ‘you can call me any name you want’,” Fouda said.
“And I looked at his eyes – and I said ‘yes I can call you any name I want but I want your real name’.”
He now believes this man had bad intentions.
Bush said based on the information available to police at present, it was not aware of any information which could have prevented the attack.
On Sunday night, Newshub also revealed the story of Phil Arps, the first man convicted of sharing the shooting video, and how he had previously delivered a pig’s head to the mosque.