Britain’s Prince William paid tribute to Australian and New Zealand troops on Thursday at an emotional Anzac Day ceremony, six weeks after the Christchurch mosques massacre.
The Prince, in New Zealand to meet survivors of the March 15 shooting in which 50 people were killed, laid a wreath at the annual service honouring those who have served in the two countries’ armed forces.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told an Anzac day dawn service the March 15 massacre showed “there is still much division to overcome” in the world and called for a recommitment “to the principles of freedom, democracy and peace that the country had fought for”.
New Zealand last week lowered its terror threat level from high to medium, meaning another attack was judged “feasible” rather than “very likely”.
Still, the number of Anzac services in Auckland was reduced to avoid overstretching security forces.
Anzac Day marks the April 25, 1915 landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on the Turkish peninsula in an ill-fated WWI campaign against the German-backed Ottoman forces.
More than 10,000 Australian and New Zealand servicemen died in the campaign, and while it failed in its military objectives, it gave rise to commemorations of the courage and close friendship that bind the two countries.
Prince William sat alongside Ardern during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Auckland War Memorial Museum while dozens of armed police officers kept guard and snipers could be seen on the building’s roof.
Hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders travel to Gallipoli each year to attend a dawn commemoration at Anzac Cove, where the troops landed.
Similar dawn services were held in Australia where Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down reports of a plot to target the Gallipoli event following the arrest in Turkey of a suspected Islamic State member.
Australian Veteran Affairs Minister Darren Chester had earlier told broadcaster ABC that Turkish police arrested someone “alleged to be involved in activities that were designed to disrupt the Anzac day services at Gallipoli”.
But Morrison later said the arrest was a “routine thing that we’ve seen happen with Turkish authorities”.
“We could not say at all that there is any link between that arrest and any planned event at Gallipoli,” he told reporters.
In New Zealand, Muslim youth association leader Azeem Zafarullah said it was important for the Muslim community to take part in the Anzac Day services, following the carnage in Christchurch.
“It’s important that we show the public that we’re here to represent our country — we are loyal citizens,” he told reporters.
Zafarullah said the Muslim community had received a lot of support after the mosque massacres, noting: “It’s important that we show that support back.”
Prince William did not speak at the Anzac Day service but was expected to give an address when he meets with survivors of the mosque shootings in Christchurch on Friday.
At the earlier dawn ceremony, Ardern said “our peace was altered dramatically by the terrorist attacks in Christchurch.
“Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity, that there is more that unites us than divides us. Our sense of independence is as strong as our sense of responsibility to each other and not just as nation states but as human beings.”