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Christchurch mosque shootings

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Christchurch mosque shootings
Part of Terrorism in New Zealand
Canterbury Mosque 12 June 2006 (adjusted levels).jpg
Al Noor Mosque in 2006
Location of Al Noor Mosque (left) and Linwood Islamic Centre (right)
LocationChristchurch, New Zealand
Coordinates
Date15 March 2019 (2019-03-15)
1:40 pm (NZDT; UTC+13)
TargetMuslims
Attack type
Mass shooting,[1] terrorist attack[2]
WeaponsTwo semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns, one lever-action rifle, undetonated car bombs
Deaths50
  • 42 at Al Noor Mosque
  • 7 at Linwood Islamic Centre
  • 1 later at Christchurch Hospital
Non-fatal injuries
50
AssailantsBrenton Harrison Tarrant
Motive

The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist mass shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019.[7] The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm, and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre[8][9][10] at about 1:55 pm.[11]

The attacks killed 50 people and injured 50 more.[12][13] The suspect, a 28-year-old Australian man described in media reports as an alt-right white supremacist, was arrested and charged with murder.[14][15][16] The attacks have been linked to an increase of white supremacist and alt-right extremism globally[17][18] observed since the mid-2010s.[19][20] The suspect published a manifesto and live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.[21] It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.[22]

Attacks

Al Noor Mosque, Riccarton

The gunman began shooting worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, Riccarton, at around 1:40 pm. Police received the first emergency call at 1:41 pm.[23] Between three and five hundred people may have been inside the mosque attending Jumu'ah (Friday prayer) at the time of the shooting.[24] A neighbour of the mosque told reporters that he saw the gunman flee and drop what appeared to be a firearm in the driveway.[25] The witness said the gunman appeared to be wearing military-style clothing.[26]

The gunman live-streamed the first 17 minutes of the attack on Facebook Live, starting with the drive to the mosque and ending with the drive away.[27] Moments before the shooting, the gunman played a traditional marching song of the British military called "The British Grenadiers", "Gas Gas Gas", a song by Italian musician Manuel Karamori used in the popular anime adaptation of the manga series Initial D, and "Serbia Strong", a Serb nationalist song from the Bosnian War (1992–1995) celebrating Radovan Karadžić, who was found guilty of genocide against Bosnian Muslims.[28][29][30] Just before the shooting, the gunman appeared to be greeted by one of the worshippers, who said "Hello, brother" and was amongst the first people to be killed.[26][31][32]

The gunman spent several minutes inside the mosque, shooting indiscriminately at the attendees. He killed three people near the entrance, and many others inside a larger room. The gunman approached wounded victims, firing at them multiple times. He then left the mosque and fired on people outside. He went on to retrieve another weapon from his vehicle before returning to the mosque to murder more victims, many of whom were already wounded and unable to escape. The gunman then exited the mosque for a second time and killed a woman near the footpath as she pleaded for help. He returned to his car and fled the scene shortly thereafter.[26] The video showed that the gunman shot other civilians near the area and drove away at a high speed.[33]

When the gunman returned to the car, it was playing the song "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.[34] A Pakistani emigrant,[35] Naeem Rashid, charged at the gunman but was shot; he later died in hospital.[36][37][38] The footage stopped as the gunman was driving along Bealey Avenue, heading in the direction of the Linwood Islamic Centre.[39]

Linwood Islamic Centre

A second series of shootings commenced at about 1:55 pm.[40] at the Linwood Islamic Centre,[41][42] a mosque 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) away from Al Noor.[26] The gunman shot several people outside the mosque, killing seven.[33]

The mosque's acting imam credited a worshipper named Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah with stopping the attack before the gunman could enter the building.[43] Wahabzadah told media that he ran at the gunman hoping to distract him from attacking people in the mosque. When the gunman retreated, he took a credit card machine, ran after the gunman and threw the machine at him. The gunman took a firearm from his car and fired at Wahabzadah, who took cover among nearby cars and retrieved an empty shotgun the gunman had dropped. The gunman continued firing at the mosque. When the gunman returned to his car again, Wahabzadah threw the shotgun and shattered a car window or windscreen. The gunman then drove away.[44][45][46][47]

Explosive devices

The police found two improvised explosive devices attached to a car, which were defused by the New Zealand Defence Force.[48] No explosives were found on the gunman.[49]

Victims

The attack killed 50 people: 42 at Al Noor Mosque, seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre[50] and one who died in Christchurch Hospital.[33][51] The ages of those killed ranged from 2 to 71.[52] From Police Commissioner Mike Bush's update, as of 10:00 am on 17 March 2019, 50 people were injured, 36 people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, two of whom were in a serious condition, with one child at Starship children's hospital in Auckland.[53][54] National futsal player Atta Elayyan was among those killed.[55]

In the wake of the attacks, dozens of people remain missing[56] and several diplomatic offices and foreign ministries released statements concerning the number of victims from their nations.[57][58][59] The police have requested missing people, or those listed as missing, to go online and register themselves as safe on the Restoring Family Links website, managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.[60] A list of missing people has been published by New Zealand Red Cross, and includes nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.[61]

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Naeem Rashid would be posthumously honoured with a national award for his courage during the attacks. Rashid, who was killed at the Al Noor Mosque, was shot attempting to disarm the gunman and died after being taken to hospital.[38][62]

Suspect

Brenton Tarrant
Born
Brenton Harrison Tarrant

1990/1991 (age 28–29)
ResidenceDunedin, New Zealand
OccupationPersonal trainer
Criminal chargeMurder

A 28-year-old Australian identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant stands accused of carrying out the attack. Early reports indicated "a multiple, simultaneous attack",[63] but later only a single suspect was implicated.[64][65] He was arrested on Brougham Street[66] by police officers 36 minutes after the first emergency call.[23][67][68] Mobile phone footage showed his car had been rammed against the kerb by a police car before his arrest at gunpoint.[69][70] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that Tarrant had been planning to continue the attack.[67]

At the time of the attack, Tarrant's place of residence was Andersons Bay, Dunedin. He had worked as a personal trainer in Grafton, New South Wales, from 2009 to 2011.[71] Around 2012, he started visiting many countries in Asia and Europe. Authorities in Bulgaria and Turkey are investigating his visits to their respective nations.[72][73] He became obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by Islamic extremists in 2016 and 2017, started planning an attack about two years prior to the shootings, and chose his targets three months in advance.[74] Security officials suspect he had come into contact with far-right organisations about two years before the shooting while visiting European nations.[75]

Weapons

According to Ardern, Tarrant acquired a gun licence in November 2017 and began buying guns the following month. Police recovered five guns at the scene – two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm.[76] The guns and magazines used were covered in white writing that named historical events, people, and motifs related to historical conflicts, wars, and battles between Muslims and European Christians as well as the names of recent Islamic terrorist attack victims and the names of far-right attackers like Josué Estébanez and Luca Traini.[77][note 1]

Manifesto

Tarrant recorded his beliefs in a 73-page manifesto titled "The Great Replacement", a reference to the Great Replacement and white genocide conspiracy theories.[84] It expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for all non-European immigrants in Europe who he claims are "invading his land" to be removed. The author also describes himself as an ethno-nationalist.[79][85][86]

In the rambling manifesto the author names dozens of people from around the world, ranging from politicians whose ideas he supports[87][88][89][90] to terrorists and murderers whose actions he applauds.[91] He also calls for the assassination of several politicians he disagrees with.[1][92] The manifesto displays Neo-nazi symbols like the Black Sun as well as Pagan symbols such as Odin's cross.[93] The author denies being a Nazi[93] and professes to be an "eco-fascist" concerned with global warming,[94][95][96] and a "kebab removalist", in reference to a meme regarding the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb army.[97]

Nine minutes before the attacks, he emailed the manifesto to over 30 recipients, including the Prime Minister's office and several media outlets.[98] He also shared links to the manifesto on Twitter and 8chan immediately before the attack.[99][100] His manifesto said he began planning an attack two years earlier and chose the Christchurch location three months earlier.[101] His document stated that he targeted Muslims as a form of "revenge against Islam for 1,300 years of war and devastation that it has brought upon the people of the West and other peoples of the world".[4][5][102]

Some journalists that analyzed the manifesto believed it was a front, and instead, along with the attack, designed to troll everyone and create more discourse about certain groups and people. Evidence for such comes from the references to numerous memes within the manifesto, which these journalists warned could be misinterpreted by the media.[87][88][103] One journalist considered the manifesto a trap for the media, stating that it was "laid for journalists searching for the meaning behind this horrific crime. There is truth in there, and valuable clues to the shooter’s radicalization, but it is buried beneath a great deal of, for lack of a better word, 'shitposting.'"[87] For example, just before carrying out the attack, the gunman said "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie", a meme referring to the popular Swedish YouTube personality Felix Kjellberg who goes by the alias PewDiePie.[104][105][106] Kjellberg posted on Twitter: "I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person," and gave his condolences to those affected.[105] Because Kjellberg has tens of millions of followers on social media, this served the purpose of spreading news about the attack further to draw more interest in it.[87] Journalists saw that a similar effect could be had, due to the manifesto's mention of prominent people that have drawn ideological criticism, to attract media coverage and partially blame them for the attack.[87][88]

Criminal case

Tarrant appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday 16 March, where he was charged with murder and remanded in custody.[107] During his court appearance, he smiled at the media and made an inverted OK gesture.[108] The case was transferred to the High Court, with his next appearance scheduled for 5 April 2019.[109] After the court appearance on 16 March, Tarrant dismissed the duty lawyer who represented him and chose to conduct his own defence.[110]

Others arrested

On the day of the attacks, authorities stated that four suspects were arrested.[111][112][113]

Two days after the attack, Police Commissioner Mike Bush stated that separate from the main suspect, the three other people arrested were not charged in relation to the attacks and did not appear to be involved in the attacks. Bush then gave the following descriptions of the other three suspects:[114] Police arrested a woman and a man after finding a firearm in a vehicle in which they were travelling together.[115] The woman was released uncharged while the man was held in custody, charged with a firearms offence.[116] An 18-year-old man was arrested after he armed himself with the intention to "assist children in the area"; he will appear in court on 18 March 2019.[65][117]

Additionally, a 30-year-old man claimed he was arrested when he arrived at Papanui High School to pick up his 13-year-old brother-in-law. He was wearing camouflage clothing, which he habitually wore.[118]

Aftermath

Emergency services response

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that police were at the first mosque within minutes of the incident being reported at 1:42 pm.[119] In response to criticism that police were too slow to react to the attacks, the police defended the 36 minutes it took to arrest Tarrant. District Commander John Price said "That is an incredibly fast response time. You had a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city."[120]

St. John Ambulance sent 20 ambulances and other vehicles to the mosques.[121] Most of the wounded were taken to Christchurch Hospital. Forty-eight people with gunshot wounds, including young children, were treated at the hospital,[122][123] with some taken to other hospitals within Christchurch and nationally.[124] Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan.[122]

Authorities advised all mosques in the country to close until further notice and sent police to secure various sites in Christchurch.[125] All Air New Zealand Link services departing Christchurch Airport were cancelled as a precaution, due to the absence of security screening at the regional terminal.[126][127] Security was increased at Parliament in Wellington, including the cancellation of public tours.[128] In Dunedin, the Armed Offenders Squad searched a house and cordoned off part of the surrounding street in Andersons Bay after the shooter indicated on social media that he had originally planned to target the city's Al Huda Mosque.[129]

The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination was convened to coordinate the government response. Prime Minister Ardern, who was on public engagements in New Plymouth, returned to Wellington by air to receive official advice.[130] For the first time in New Zealand history, the terrorism threat level was raised to high.[113] Flags are also being flown at half-mast on all government buildings nationwide.[131]

Others

A number of schools near to the incidents were locked down in the wake of the event.[112] School strikers at the Global School Strike rally in Cathedral Square, near the two attacks, were advised by police to either seek refuge in public buildings or go home.[132][133] The University of Otago postponed its 150th anniversary street parade, which was scheduled for 16 March, in response to security concerns.[134][135]

The third Test cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh, scheduled to be played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch from 16 March, was cancelled because of security concerns.[136] The Bangladesh team were about to attend the Al Noor Mosque and were moments from entering the building when the incident began.[137][138] The players then fled on foot to Hagley Oval.[139] Two days later, Canterbury withdrew from their match against Wellington in the Plunket Shield cricket tournament.[140] Likewise the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders, based in Christchurch, and Highlanders, based in Dunedin, due to be played the next day were cancelled as "a mark of respect for the events".[141] Two concerts scheduled to be held in Christchurch on 17 March, by singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, and thrash metal band Slayer were also cancelled.[142]

A Givealittle online fundraiser, started to support victims and their families, has so far raised over NZ$4.3 million.[143][144] Together with other fundraisers, over $6.1 million were raised in total for the victims and their families.[145] The Prime Minister also reiterated that those injured or killed in the shootings and their immediate families are covered by the country's accident compensation scheme (ACC).[146][147]

Some New Zealand gun owners have responded by voluntarily handing in their weapons to the police.[148]

Video

The live stream was re-posted on many video streaming services including LiveLeak and YouTube.[149] Police, Muslim advocacy groups and government agencies urged anyone who finds the footage to take it down or report it.[150] The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification quickly classified the video as "objectionable", making it an offence to distribute, copy, or exhibit the video within the country.[151] An 18-year-old man appeared in Christchurch District Court on 18 March faced with a charge of distributing the video and with a second charge of making an objectionable publication by posting a photo of Al Noor Mosque with the message "target acquired" and other chat messages "inciting extreme violence".[152][153] Some media organisations in Australia and tabloid newspaper websites in the United Kingdom broadcast parts of the live stream, up to the point the gunman entered the building, despite pleas from New Zealand police not to show it.[154][155] Sky Television New Zealand temporarily stopped its rebroadcast of Sky News Australia after that network showed the footage, and stated they were working with Sky News Australia to prevent further displays of the video.[156] New Zealand's Internet service providers have taken steps to block access to 8chan and other sites related to the attack,[157] and have temporarily blocked other sites like 4chan, LiveLeak, and Mega where the video has been hosted until these sites comply with their request to take down the video.[158] Additionally, at least three sites, 8chan, Kiwi Farms, and Voat, are all under investigation by New Zealand authorities for material pertinent to the attack, where video and other posts were made as the attack was live.[159]

Social media sites including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Twitter stated that they were working diligently to remove the video of the attack from their platforms and would also remove anything supporting the attacks;[160][161] Facebook's New Zealand operations said that within the second 24 hours after the attack, they had blocked 1.5 million uploads of the video and images, including edited versions, from their service, though most during the uploading stage before they reached public visibility.[162] Reddit banned subreddits named "WatchPeopleDie" and "Gore", stating the threads had glorified the attacks in violation of user agreements.[163][164][165]

Reactions

World leaders and cited individuals

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Ardern visited members of the Muslim community at the Phillipstown Community Hub Te Whare Whānau Whānui in Christchurch the day after the attacks.

Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an "act of extreme and unprecedented violence" and said "this is one of New Zealand's darkest days."[166][167][168] She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack.[124] Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought "anything like this" could happen in New Zealand, saying "everyone is shocked".[124] Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, said she was "deeply saddened" by the attack.[169]

Politicians and world leaders condemned the attacks,[170][note 2] with some attributing the attack to rising Islamophobia.[207][208] The gunman cited Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose", but denounced his leadership and policies. When President Trump was asked if he thought "white nationalists were a growing threat around the world", he replied "I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It's certainly a terrible thing."[89]

White supremacists

A number of alt-right leaders and online posters supported the attack, hailing the shooter as a "hero" and calling the violence a part of an ongoing worldwide ethnic conflict between white and non-white people.[97][209] Andrew Anglin, the leader of the website The Daily Stormer, stated that out of the mass shootings he had seen "this is by far the funniest one of them all" and that the shooter was already a "folk hero" to many within the movement.[209]

The United Kingdom's domestic intelligence service, MI5, launched an enquiry into the shooter's links to the British far-right.[210]

Changes to gun laws

Gun laws in New Zealand came under scrutiny in the aftermath, specifically the legality of military-style semi-automatic weapons compared to Australia which banned them after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.[211] As gun-policy specialist Philip Alpers noted, "New Zealand is almost alone with the United States in not registering 96 percent of its firearms ... one can assume that the ease of obtaining these firearms may have been a factor in his decision to commit the crime in Christchurch."[212][213] The New Zealand auction website Trade Me has banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons on its platform.[214]

Prime Minister Ardern announced: "Our gun laws will change, now is the time ... People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that."[212] Ardern continued by stating that "There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change."[215] Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns,[216] but subsequently backtracked on this statement, saying that the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was "one of the issues" the government would consider.[217] Ardern, at a press conference on 18 March, indicated that details of the proposed reforms will be given by 25 March.[114]

David Tipple, a gun-rights activist and owner of 20 Gun City stores across New Zealand, sold guns and ammunition to the gunman. In a media conference following the shootings, he claimed no responsibility for the attack for selling weapons to the gunman. He also refused to discuss a wider debate of guns.[218]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Apart from the Latin alphabet, writings on the weaponry were in the Cyrillic, Armenian and Georgian alphabets.[78] The markings included references to the 732 Battle of Tours, the 1189–1191 Siege of Acre, the 1565 Great Siege of Malta, the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, the 1683 Battle of Vienna, the 1770 Battle of Kagul, the 1805 Battle of Ivankovac, the 1877–1878 Battle of Shipka Pass, the 1913 Battle of Bulair, the 2010 Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, the 2018 Global Compact for Migration, Charles Martel, Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, Hetman Feliks Kazimierz Potocki, Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano Venier, Luca Traini, Alexandre Bissonnette, Lazar Hrebeljanović, Dmitry Senyavin, Miloš Obilić, John Hunyadi, Michael Szilágyi, Șerban Cantacuzino, Marco Antonio Bragadin, Ștefan cel Mare, Skanderbeg, Bajo Pivljanin, Novak Vujošević, Edward Codrington, Marko Miljanov Popović, Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, David Soslan, David IV of Georgia, Stefan Lazarević, Constantine II of Bulgaria, Bohemond I of Antioch, Gaston IV of Bearn, Pelayu, Iosif Gurko, the Fourteen Words and "Turkofagos" (Turk eater), a term used by Greeks during the Greek War of Independence.[29][78][79][80][81] The anti-Muslim phrase "Remove Kebab", a slogan originating from online communities that spread and is used by white supremacists, was shown on one of the weapons.[29] The rifle magazine had the name of Josué Estébanez, the perpetrator of the murder of Carlos Palomino.[82] On his pack was a Black Sun patch, and two dog tags: one with the white supremacist version of the Celtic cross, and one with a Slavic swastika design.[83]
  2. ^ Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed support for New Zealand and condemned the shootings as a "violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack." He confirmed that an Australian had been detained as a suspect in connection with the attack.[171][172][173] British Prime Minister Theresa May described the incident as a "horrifying terrorist attack", and said "my thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence".[174] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed "deepest condolences" and stated that "Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer", referencing the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.[175] U.S. President Donald Trump extended his "warmest sympathy and best wishes...to the people of New Zealand", and he and the FBI offered them assistance[176][177][178][179] while security at mosques around the United States was increased.[180][181] Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Prime Minister Ardern a message of condolence, saying "This attack on civilians who gathered for prayer is shocking in its violence and cynicism".[182] The lighting of the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, the tallest free-standing structure in Europe, was off for one hour as a sign of mourning.[183] King Salman of Saudi Arabia said: "The heinous massacre of the worshipers at mosques in New Zealand is a terrorist act."[184] He also called on the international community to confront hate speech and terrorism.[184][185] Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of Vatican City, sent a letter of condolences on behalf of Pope Francis, assuring the Muslim community in New Zealand of the Pope's, "heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks," and stating that, "His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy."[186] Condolences were also provided by Azerbaijani,[187] Bangladeshi,[188] Bruneian,[189] Cambodian,[190] Chinese,[191] Filipino,[192] Hungarian,[193] Indian,[194] Indonesian,[195] Japanese,[196] South Korean,[197] Kosovar,[198] Malaysian,[199] Pakistani,[200] Singaporean,[201] Taiwanese,[202] Thai,[203] Turkish,[204] and Vietnamese[205] leaders. In Pakistan, during the Pakistan Super League 4 final at the National Stadium in Karachi, a moment of silence was observed.[206]

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External links