Local mosques ask for police presence a day after New Zealand massacre

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SEATTLE -- The Seattle-area Muslim community is asking for increased police protection following a massacre at two mosques in New Zealand.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, in a carefully planned and unprecedented attack that has shocked the usually peaceful nation.

Flowers were placed on the doors of a Seattle mosque a day after the New Zealand massacre (Q13 News photo)

Here at home, the Muslim community is asking for police presence at all local mosques and Muslim schools as they mourn the loss of life in New Zealand.

Masih Fouladi, executive director of the Seattle-based Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA), said the massacre abroad is a grim reminder of the increase in threats against the local Muslim community over the past few years, including some in recent months.

Fouladi said a series of postcards sent out to local mosques and the CAIR offices were so disturbing, they had to reach out to police.

"We've seen incredible rises in hate crimes ... The FBI came out with report a few months ago that hate crimes increased at an unprecedented level, so this has become all too common for us. It's very unfortunate," he said.

Seattle Police said on Twitter that the department has reached out to mosques and offered assistance.

"We have no tolerance for hate crimes and crimes of violence," Police Chief Carmen Best said.

New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called the incident a terrorist attack in a Friday press conference, saying the suspects held "extremist views."

Three men and one woman were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the incident. One man in his late 20s was charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning local time.

Of the other three people apprehended, two were arrested in possession of firearms and police are still trying to understand their involvement, said New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. On Friday night local time police tweeted that the pair remain in custody.

Police said a fourth person was arrested Friday but "that was not related to these events."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that at least one of those arrested is Australian. He said the shooting was the work of an "extremist right-wing, violent terrorist."

Police said they do not believe there are any other suspects but added that it was still an open investigation.

None of the four people arrested had been on any security watch lists prior to the attack.

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