At least 49 killed in New Zealand mosque shootings
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Agence France-Presse
A “right-wing extremist” armed with semi-automatic weapons rampaged through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during afternoon prayers on March 15, killing 49 worshippers and wounding dozens more.
The attack, thought to be the deadliest against Muslims in the West in modern times, was immediately dubbed terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she guided a shocked nation on one of its “darkest days.”
A gunman, naming himself as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast livestream footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a “manifesto” in which he denounced immigrants, calling them “invaders.”
Police said three people were in custody including one man in his late 20s who had been charged with murder.
“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are enclave for extremism,” Ardern said in a national address. “We were chosen for the fact that we are none of these things. It was because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values. You have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you,” she said.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 49 people had been killed in total. Health authorities said 48 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, including young children.
The video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor, the video showed.
Shortly before the attack began, an anonymous post on the discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, said the writer was going to “carry out an attack against the invaders” and included links to a Facebook live stream, in which the shooting appeared, and a manifesto.
The manifesto cited “white genocide,” a term typically used by racist groups to refer to immigration and the growth of minority populations, as his motivation.
The Facebook link directed users to the page of a user called brenton.tarrant.9.
A Twitter account with the handle @brentontarrant posted on March 15 images of a rifle and other military gear decorated with names and messages connected to white nationalism.
The so-called manifesto said the gunman identified himself as an Australia-born, 28-year-old white male from a low-income, working-class family.
Entitled “The Great Replacement”, the 74-page document said the gunman had wanted to attack Muslims.
The title of the document has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that believes European populations are being displaced in their homelands by immigrant groups with higher birth rates.
He said that key points in his radicalization were the defeat of the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in 2017 elections, and the death of 11-year-old Ebba Kerlund in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.
He also claimed that he had “brief contact” with Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011and had received a “blessing” for his actions from the mass murderer’s acquaintances.
U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” in what the White House called a “vicious act of hate”.
“The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.
The gunman’s manifesto praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pope voiced solidarity with Muslims and assured “all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity.”
The Pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence,” Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she mourned “with New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques.”
And French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “odious attack” and said France stood “against any form of extremism.”