Killed terrorists radicalised in Christchurch
Two men killed by a drone strike in Yemen were reportedly introduced to radical Islam at a mosque in Christchurch, but the prime minister does not believe the city is a base for radical Islam.
Daryl Jones, who had dual New Zealand-Australian nationality, and Australian Christopher Havard were killed by a missile fired by a US drone last November.
Australia's ABC news has reported the pair were had been on an Australian Federal Police watch list because of their links to the banned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group.
ABC said Havard and Jones - who went by the name Muslim bin John - met in Christchurch.
Havard's mother, Bronwyn Dowrick, and his stepfather, Neill Dowrick, said Havard moved to Christchurch after converting to Islam.
He joined the local mosque and told his parents that was where he first encountered radical Islam.
"When he moved into the mosque he realised what they were trying to convert people to," they told ABC.
"That's when he left and went to Dunedin. He didn't agree with what they were teaching."
PM: CHRISTCHURCH NOT A RADICAL BASE
Speaking in Tonga, Prime Minister John Key said he did not believe Christchurch was a base for radical Islam.
"I don't believe so. I don't have any particular information about Christopher Harvard and the New Zealander that's involved, except to say, as I've said in the past, we can't rule out from time to time people are given instructions and are introduced to a thought process that we think is very unwise and unhelpful.
"That's the very reason we have security and intelligence services, because they are there to monitor any lead that we might have if there's somebody trying to undertake the radicalisation of people."
Key would not go into the exact activities of the SIS but said "a very small number of people" were being monitored.
He would not comment on whether people were being radicalised in New Zealand because people would have a "different definition of what that might mean".
"Where the government has reason to believe that it has relevant information you can assume that we would take that appropriate steps to monitor that. that's for the safety and security of New Zealanders, and for the safety and security of innocent people in the locations that those people may go to".
IMAM SAW NO RADICALS IN CHRISTCHURCH
Hisham el Zeiny was the imam of the Christchurch Mosque when Havard was there, and said he had "never seen any signs of radical Islam" in Christchurch.
Havard appeared to be a "very normal guy".
"He approached me. He had to do some community service, he wanted to do it in the mosque," el Zeiny said.
"There was nothing abnormal about him at all."
El Zeiny and Havard both stayed at the mosque after the earthquake, as did many people whose homes were damaged, but he did not know Jones, he said.
He heard a rumour Havard went to Yemen after leaving Christchurch in 2011 and was shocked to later learn he died in a drone strike there.He was also surprised to hear allegations that Havard was linked to the AQAP.
"I didn't see a sign of that coming," the imam said.
El Zeiny said there was no system for teaching newcomers about Islam at the time of Canterbury's earthquakes because the disaster disrupted normal activities.
Havard might have turned to the internet to learn more and "probably" encountered radical Islam there, where it was "easy ... to stray", he said.
"The main problem is coming from the internet, not people," he said.
El Zeiny said many Muslims in New Zealand had fled from dictatorships overseas and were "peaceful people".
"We're not here to kill people," he said.
ABC news cited documents from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, that revealed Havard was a suspect in the Al Qaeda kidnapping of three Westerners in Yemen in December 2012.
However, the documents also revealed some confusion within the Australian government about whether Havard and Jones were involved with AQAP.