Prince William visit to honour Christchurch attack victims

Wellington (AFP) –


Prince William will visit New Zealand next month to honour victims of the Christchurch mosques shooting that claimed 50 lives, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Kensington Palace announced Thursday.

Ardern, who will attend a national memorial service for the victims on Friday, said William, the Duke of Cambridge, would represent his mother Queen Elizabeth II, the official head of state in the former British colony.

"The visit will be another sign that this nation will always stand with those affected by the terror attacks, and the people of Christchurch," she said in a statement.

The royals have previously expressed their sympathies at the shooting attacks on two Christchurch mosques earlier this month by a self-avowed white supremacist.

Kensington Palace said the visit, which will take place in late April, came at Ardern's request.

"The Duke will meet with those affected by the attack and will pay tribute to the extraordinary compassion and solidarity that the people of New Zealand have displayed in recent weeks," it said in a statement.

Ardern said William had a strong connection with Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region after visiting the South Island city in the wake of a devastating 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people.

William made a two-day visit to Christchurch following the quake to attend a memorial service. He and his wife Kate also visited the city in 2014.

After the mosque attacks, William, Kate, Prince Harry and wife Meghan sent a message that ended "Kia kaha", meaning "be strong" in Maori.

"We have all been fortunate to spend time in Christchurch and have felt the warm, open-hearted and generous spirit that is core to its remarkable people," they said.

"No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship.

"This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship."