Erdogan says New Zealand mosque attacks suspect targeted Turkey

At a campaign rally, Erdogan says alleged NZ attacker said he wanted Muslims removed from Turkey's European territory.

    Erdogan says 'we do not want to see a cross and crescent conflict again' [Umit Bektas/Reuters]
    Erdogan says 'we do not want to see a cross and crescent conflict again' [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed video footage at an election rally from the attack on two New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people and said the suspected gunman had made threats against Turkish Muslims.

    Erdogan said the suspect had twice visited Turkey and warned Turks have no place in Europe. He said on Saturday that Turkish authorities were investigating his visits and his contacts.

    Turkey's president showed a video - including extracts purportedly from the suspect's online manifesto and semi-blurred footage of the shooting - to the crowd via a large screen.

    "We do not want to see a cross and crescent conflict again," Erdogan told the rally, referring to the conflict between Christians and Muslims.

    He said the suspected attacker had said he wanted Turkish Muslims removed from Turkey's European territory.

    Majority-Muslim Turkey straddles Europe and Asia, its Asian section known as Anatolia. Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, is split between an Asian part to the east of the Bosphorus, and a European half to the west of the strait.

    "The wicked person who martyred 49 brothers and sisters is saying that we can stay on the Anatolian side, we cannot pass to the European side. Who do you think you are?" Erdogan said.

    A senior Turkish security source said Tarrant entered Turkey twice in 2016 - for a week in March and for more than a month in September. Turkish authorities began investigating everything from hotel records to camera footage to try to ascertain the reason for his visits, the source told Reuters news agency.

    On Friday, Erdogan said the suspected attacker had "targeted our country, our nation and myself", adding countries around the world, particularly in the West, needed to guard against the rise of Islamophobia.

    Demonising Islam

    Leaders around the world expressed sorrow and disgust at the attacks, with some deploring the demonisation of Muslims. Political and Islamic leaders across Asia and the Middle East voiced concern over the targeting of Muslims.

    The Turkish leader, who often criticises Islamophobic attitudes, called for the West to act to prevent similar attacks.

    "If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one," said Erdogan.

    After Friday prayers, dozens of people gathered outside Istanbul's Fatih Mosque - one of the city's main mosques - chanting condemnation of the attack and waving signs saying "Stop global terrorism" and "Crusader Savagery in New Zealand".

    Erdogan had earlier condemned the attack on Twitter: "May Allah have mercy on the victims and grant a speedy recovery to the wounded."

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency