New Zealand shootings: Jacinda Ardern announces inquiry into deadly terror attack

New Zealand has announced plans for a royal commission – a powerful form of public inquiry – into the events leading up to a deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch.

The investigation will look into the roles of semi-automatic guns, social media and the intelligence agencies prior to 15 March atrocity, which killed 50 people.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said: “While New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world are both grieving and showing compassion for one another, they are also quite rightly asking questions on how this terror attack was able to happen here.

“It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of how this act of terrorism occurred and what, if any, opportunities we had to stop it.”

A royal commission is run independently from the government and is chaired by a high court judge.

It has the power to compel witnesses to testify and organisations to hand over documents, however it is up to the courts or government to follow through on any recommendations or findings.

Ms Ardern said royal commissions are typically reserved for matters of the gravest public importance and that was clearly appropriate in this case.

The exact terms of inquiry are going to be finalised over the next two weeks.

A suspected white supremacist has been charged with one count of murder in relation to the shootings and will next appear in court on 5 April.

Ms Ardern said the suspect, Brenton Tarrant, had not been on any watch lists in New Zealand or Australia.

However, New Zealand’s intelligence agencies have been criticised by some for focusing too much on perceived threats from Muslim extremists and left-wing radicals but too little on possible threats from nationalist groups and white supremacists.

Ms Ardern added there will be a “focus on whether our intelligence community was concentrating its resources appropriately” and whether they could have been alerted about the attack.

The US, Australia and the UK have held similar wide-ranging inquiries in the aftermath of major terror attacks.

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