Mosques heighten security after massacres in New Zealand

49 killed at mosques in ‘one of New Zealand's darkest days'

By Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - Security measures heightened at mosques in South Florida this weekend after two shootings at mosques in New Zealand left 49 people dead and more than 40 wounded.

Although there were no signs of specific threats, deputies with the Broward Sheriff's Office and police officers with the Miami and Miami-Dade police departments stepped up their efforts. The need for security comes with solidarity and grief.

Imam Naseeb Khan lead Friday prayers at Jamaat UI Muttaqueen Mosque in Pembroke Pines. 

"Every time we allow people who have this agenda to influence us to change our behavior and our thinking and the way we relate, then we are giving them power to fulfill their agenda over ours," Khan said. 

Authorities in New Zealand say a 28-year-old white supremacist from Australia identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant wore a camera on his helmet to use social media to broadcast 17 minutes of one of the cold-blooded massacres at Al Noor Mosque. Two others were also arrested. 

"I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque," Len Peneha told The Associated Press. "I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people."

The gunman's manifesto, also published online, praised President Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." The Trump administration did not comment, but Trump issued a message of solidarity with New Zealand. 

As the investigation on the massacres in Christchurch continues, police officers asked Muslims to avoid mosques in New Zealand.  Nihad Awad, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, asked Muslims at the 3,000 mosques in the United States to "not abandon your mosques." 

Wilfredo Ruiz, a Muslim chaplain with CAIR Florida, said the Muslim community is very afraid. 

"We don't want to alarm everybody to be irrational about this, but they are afraid, " said Wilfredo Ruiz, a Muslim chaplain. 

The massacres brought bad memories to some of the members of the Jamaat UI Muttaqueen Mosque. Last year, a 25-year-old man from Cutler Bay threatened to attack them. He was sentenced to four years in prison for the hate crime. 

Mosque president Azeem Eoonous said he agreed with Khan and despite the circumstances he felt safe at the mosque at 1010 SW 196 Ave. He also said he was grateful for the support he received from the local law enforcement community. 

"Law enforcement has been excellent. They have reached out," Eoonous said. "As a matter of fact, they were at the mosque earlier today and they gave us brochures and gave us ideas on how to secure ourselves."

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