Christchurch attack: Warnings about threat from white supremacists were ignored

Warning: The article contains content that may disturb some people.

The Imam at Al Noor Mosque claims the accused gunman may have had help from other people in planning the attacks in Christchurch.

Gamal Fouda revealed more evidence, in an exclusive interview, of missed warning signs at the mosque before March 15.

Fouda told Newshub he made direct warnings about suspicious European visitors. He went on to say the police dismissed his concerns as "not serious".

On Sunday night, Newshub 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.

Ihe Imam says Arps was just one of a number of suspected white supremacists who had harassed worshippers, and suggests the alleged gunman had help with planning the attack.

The holy month of Ramadan is underway, and Patrick Gower, Newshub's National Correspondent, was recently invited inside the Al Noor Mosque to watch the prayer.

It showed him what it is like when full of worshippers, as it was when the alleged gunman stormed in.

 Christchurch attack: Warnings about threat from white supremacists were ignored
Photo credit: Getty

Forty-three of the 51 victims killed in the March 15 attack were shot there. The alleged gunman then went to the Linwood Islamic Centre where he opened fire again.

Unprecedented evil then became unprecedented support.

Fouda spoke in Hagley Park at the March memorial service.

After leading the prayers for Ramadan, he spoke to Newshub.

He said Ramadan is the month of "patience and love", but "hate" was still a real issue.

Fouda said before March 15, police ignored what he considers some clear warning signs about white supremacists.

Imam Fouda.
Imam Fouda. Photo credit: Reuters

The first 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.

Islamic State believes all other Muslims are "non-believers" and therefore enemies.

So at first, the Imam feared the visitors were European Kiwis, radicalised by Islamic State - like 'Kiwi Jihadi' Mark Taylor.

Fouda shared his concerns with police, but, he said, they didn't think it was serious. So he tried to convince them again.

 Christchurch attack: Warnings about threat from white supremacists were ignored

"I replied to the police and 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 told Newshub.

Given what has happened since, the Imam now believes the two visitors were actually white supremacists.

"Yes, because they said 'you're black, what [are] you doing in our country, go back to your country'," he said.

Fouda also revealed how police reassured him everything was fine last year.

A young man radicalised by Islamic State had planned a terror attack in Christchurch and the Imam was working with the agencies to re-educate him.

"But they assured us it is safe; the mosque is safe, but it turned out that this is not true," he told Newshub.

Phil Arps.
Phil Arps. Photo credit: Newshub.

Fouda said there was another concerning European visitor - not the accused gunman - just three weeks before the massacre.

"A person came here and I gave his photo to the police, from the camera."

The man said he wanted to learn about Islam, but he could tell he wasn't really interested.

"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.

"It was very strange. [He] was a very strange person, yes," Fouda told Newshub.

But despite all the hate at the mosque, he still has a Ramadan message of love to the accused gunman's family in Australia.

"We are sending the message of love and compassion to all people even to the family of this nameless person," Fouda said.

The Imam is a forgiving religious leader, but since March 15, he is unable to forget the missed warnings.

"The rise of white supremacy and right-wing extremism is a great global threat to mankind and this must end now," he told Newshub.

So if you take into account the pig's head delivery, the Al Noor Mosque had at least three concerning visits by Europeans, who could be white supremacists, in the two years leading up to, and right before the attack.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush has declined to be interviewed by Newshub.

"The investigation team is considering a wide range of information, and won't discuss specifics," he said.