New Zealand Suspect Arrested After 'Abhorrent' Threat Made Against Christchurch Mosque Ahead of Terror Attack Anniversary

A 19-year-old man in New Zealand has been arrested in connection with an online threat made against a mosque in Christchurch which was the scene of a terror attack last March.

Canterbury Police said the suspect was arrested after they conducted a search warrant at an address in Christchurch in connection with the threat made against the Al-Noor mosque on March 1.

The threat, which was posted on encrypted messaging service Telegram, showed a man wearing a balaclava with a human skull printed on it, sitting in a car outside the mosque.

The image was accompanied by a message written in Russian and English warning that a group of worshipers seen going into the mosque will be greeting each other for "the last time," along with a gun emoji.

The image shared on Telegram, a service known to be used by terrorists and extremists, was posted two weeks before the first anniversary of the Christchurch mass shootings in which an Australian gunman allegedly killed 51 people in attacks against the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15, 2019.

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said the 19-year-old has been charged on an unrelated matter, which has not been disclosed, while detectives continue to gather evidence in relation to the Al Noor threat.

Price also warned people against resharing the image online as it could cause "significant distress and anxiety" for the community.

"This type of imagery has no place in Aotearoa New Zealand," Price said. "It is abhorrent and will not be tolerated."

Price added that the image in question has been referred to New Zealand's Chief Censor to determine if it should be classified as objectionable material.

Those knowingly found in possession of sharing an objectionable image face up to 14 years in jail under New Zealand law.

Police said that they will be increasing patrols around Al Noor and Linwood mosques ahead of the one year anniversary of the massacre.

"On behalf of NZ Police, I want to thank those members of the community who alerted us to the recent threat against Al Noor mosque," Price said.

"We ask that you continue to remain vigilant, and encourage you to report anything suspicious or concerning to police immediately."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also condemned the threat made against the mosque.

"I will be amongst many New Zealanders who will be devastated to see that, as we head towards the one year anniversary of a most horrific terror attack on the Muslim community, that they should then be the target of this kind of activity," Ardern told a press conference.

Canterbury Police have been contacted for further comment on the charges against the 19-year-old.

Al Noor Mosque
An armed police officer is seen in front of Al Noor Mosque prior to the iftar, the evening meal, on May 11, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Police have arrested a 19-year-old man over an "abhorrent" threat made against the mosques targeted in a mass shooting last March. Kai Schwoerer/Getty