Worshippers at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch were photographed in an apparent terror threat, two weeks before the first anniversary of the March 15 attack in which 51 worshippers were gunned down.
The threat was issued last night on an encrypted messaging app, accompanied by a photo of a masked man sitting in a car outside the mosque.
A police spokeswoman has confirmed an investigation into the threat is underway.
Christchurch's Al Noor was one of two mosques targeted in a racially motivated mass-shooting on March 15, 2019. The alleged terrorist, an Australian national, awaits a trial due to begin in June.
Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director Rebecca Kitteridge last month warned that some Kiwis have been inspired by the March 15 terror attack, and monitoring such people had been difficult.
The threat and accompanying photo was posted anonymously to more than 2000 followers on a messaging channel on the encrypted communication app Telegram.
The image shows a man wearing dark sunglasses and a balaclava printed with an image of a human skull. Through a car window the front of the Al Noor mosque can be seen.
In the background, four people are visible at the entrance of the mosque.
The message attached, written in both English and Russian, implies the people at the "same mosque" would be greeting each other for the "last time". A gun emoji, or symbol, is also used in the message.
The image was posted on a messaging channel dedicated to celebrating the March 15 terror attack.
Police were aware of the threat and enquiries were ongoing, a spokeswoman said.
Such threats to the community were taken "extremely seriously". The spokeswoman declined to answer questions about security arrangements for the anniversary of the March 15 terror attacks.
An SIS spokesman declined to comment on the specific threat.
Islamic Women's Council national co-ordinator Anjum Rahman said she was told of the threat early this morning, and notified both mosque leaders and senior police officers.
"[The police] were already aware and were looking into that threat," she said.
"There have been threats, more oblique threats, to other mosques in the last six to eight months or so. We know there is ongoing activity, I would just say the public should be vigilant and report anything that they see as suspicious."
She said it would be helpful to have a visible police presence at the mosques as the anniversary of the attack approached.
Al Noor imam Gamal Fouda has been contacted for comment.
In February, Ms Kitteridge said New Zealand's spy agencies were investigating some 30 to 50 people for a potential terror risk at any one time.
She said it was challenging to monitor such people as they "tend to live in encrypted chat rooms" — such as Telegram.
Ms Kitteridge would not say if any specific terror plans had been intercepted.
Messages on the Telegram app first alerted the public to the arrest of a 27-year-old soldier connected to far-right groups in November 2019.
The soldier now awaits a military trial, facing charges of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose and for disclosing information that prejudiced the security or defence of New Zealand.
Authorities across western nations continue to grapple with the terror threat posed by adherents to far-right and white supremacist ideologies.
The director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Mike Burgess, last week told reporters that small cells of such extremists posed a growing and enduring threat.
Days earlier, in the United States, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security increased the terror threat level regarding homegrown white supremacists to "high".
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/christchurch-shooting-al-noor-mosque-worshipers-photographed-terror-threat-anniversary-nz-news/4122c726-15d4-4ae6-9a73-d8ef2abe1b62