Mosque shooter a white nationalist seeking revenge
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
Friday, March 15
SYDNEY (AP) — The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead on Friday tried to make a few things clear in the manifesto he left behind: He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants. He was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge, and he wanted to create fear.
He also, quite clearly, wanted attention.
Though he claimed not to covet fame, the gunman — whose name was not immediately released by police — left behind a 74-page document posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant in which he said he hoped to survive the attack to better spread his ideas in the media.
He also livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on the worshippers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.
That rampage killed at least 41 people, while an attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.
While his manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.
There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the U.S. that even police officers rarely carry guns.
Yet the gunman himself highlighted New Zealand’s remoteness as a reason he chose it. He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.
He said he grew up in a working-class Australian family, had a typical childhood and was a poor student. A woman who said she was a colleague of his when he worked as a personal trainer in the Australian city of Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.
“I can’t … believe that somebody I’ve probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme,” Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Beyond his white nationalistic ideals, he also considers himself an environmentalist and a fascist who believes China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values. He has contempt for the wealthiest 1 percent. And he singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as the person who had influenced him the most.
In a tweet, Owens responded by saying that if the media portrayed her as the inspiration for the attack, it had better hire lawyers.
Throughout the manifesto, the theme he returns to most often is conflict between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades.
He wrote that the episode that pushed him toward violence took place in 2017 while he was touring through Western Europe. That was when an Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five. The Australian was particularly enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl in the attack.
He said his desire for violence grew when he arrived in France, where he became enraged by the sight of immigrants in the cities and towns he visited.
And so he began to plot his attack. Three months ago, he started planning to target Christchurch. He claimed not to be a direct member of any organization or group, though he said he has donated to many nationalist groups. He also claimed he contacted an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and got the blessing of Anders Breivik for the attack.
Breivik is a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011. Breivik’s lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway’s VG newspaper that his client, who is in prison, has “very limited contacts with the surrounding world, so it seems very unlikely that he has had contact” with the New Zealand gunman.
The gunman had a long wish list for what he hoped the attack would achieve. He hoped it would reduce immigration by intimidating immigrants. He hoped to drive a wedge between NATO and the Turkish people. He hoped to further polarize and destabilize the West. And he hoped to create more conflict over gun laws in the U.S., thus leading to a civil war that would ultimately result in a separation of races.
Though he claimed not to be a Nazi, in the video he livestreamed of the shooting the number 14 is seen on his rifle. That may be a reference to the “14 Words,” a white supremacist slogan attributed in part to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which “has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups who traffic in neo-Nazi,” according to the center.
His victims, he wrote, were chosen because he saw them as invaders who would replace the white race. He predicted he would feel no remorse for their deaths. And in the video he livestreamed of his shooting, no remorse can be seen or heard. Instead, he simply says: “Let’s get this party started.”
Then he picks up his gun, storms into the mosque, and cuts down one innocent life after another.
When it is over, he climbs back into his car, where he has left his music playing — the song “Fire” by the English rock band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. And right after the singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” the gunman drives away.
Mass shootings at New Zealand mosques kill 49; 1 man charged
By NICK PERRY and MARK BAKER
Friday, March 15
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — At least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.
Two other armed suspects were being held in custody. Police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” and that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
In addition to the dead, health officials said 48 people were being treated at Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds. Injuries ranged from minor to critical.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people. Police later said one of the arrests didn’t relate to the shootings.
While there was no reason to believe there were any more suspects, Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised from low to high, the second-highest level.
National carrier Air New Zealand canceled at least 17 flights in and out of Christchurch, saying it couldn’t properly screen customers and their baggage following the shootings.
Police said the investigation had extended 360 kilometers (240 miles) to the south, where homes in Dunedin were evacuated around a “location of interest.” A police statement gave no further detail of how it might be linked to the attacks.
Authorities have not specified who they detained, but said none had been on any watch list. A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the people detained was an Australian-born citizen.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Friday night that a man had been charged with murder. He did not say whether police believed the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.
Ardern alluded at a news conference to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees, “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”
As for the suspects, Ardern said, “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
Bush said police had found two improvised explosive devices in one car, a clarification from an earlier statement that there were devices in multiple vehicles. He said they had disabled one and were in the process of disabling the second.
The deadliest attack occurred at the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m., when 41 people were killed.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try to help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
A video that was apparently livestreamed by the shooter shows the attack in horrifying detail. The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down.
He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle.
The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground. After walking back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song “Fire” by English rock band “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” and the gunman drives away. The video then cuts out.
During a second shooting at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Al Noor mosque, seven people were killed.
One more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.
Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.
The police commissioner warned anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday to stay put.
The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organization, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.
He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.
He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration.”
New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for migrants and refugees. Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on the promise of raising the intake of refugees, called the planned increase “the right thing to do.”
David Meates, chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board, said 12 operating theaters were being used at Christchurch Hospital to treat the injured and that some patients would need multiple surgeries. He said about 200 family members were at the hospital awaiting news of their loved ones.
Home to nearly 400,000 people, Christchurch is the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island. Sometimes called the garden city, it has been rebuilding since an earthquake in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed many downtown buildings.
A cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh scheduled to start Saturday was canceled after the Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape.
Players and members of the team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Al Noor mosque when the shooting broke out.
Batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
Mass shootings in New Zealand are rare. Before Friday’s attack, the deadliest shooting in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Perry reported from Wellington. Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Chris Blake in Bangkok contributed to this report.
Global condemnation, condolences after mosque attack
By MIKE CORDER
Friday, March 15
BRUSSELS (AP) — World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.
In a tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump sent “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand.
He wrote that “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the “latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.”
New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.
Speaking at the funeral of a former minister, Erdogan said the Islamophobia that motivated the attacks “has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweeted.
The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Youssef al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack “served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia.”
Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand’s head of state, said in a message to the country she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch” and sent condolences to families and friends of victims. The queen also paid tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting the injured.
“At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders,” she said in her message.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted that he learned of the attack “with horror and profound sadness.”
“The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life,” he wrote.
In France, home to western Europe’s largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.
“London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack,” he said. “London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is providing extra security for Muslim community centers and mosques. He said he wants the city’s Muslims to know that New Yorkers “truly embrace” them and “have their backs.”
Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for “defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression.’”
Afghanistan’s Taliban movement — Islamic militants who carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces — also condemned the shooting rampage, calling it an “unforgivable crime.”
Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf called on the New Zealand government to investigate “the root cause of such terrorism and hand a hefty punishment to the attackers.”
Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is considered a terrorist organization by Western countries, condemned the “policy of hatred that the United States is feeding around the world instead of prevailing religious values that call for forgiveness.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a “brazen act of terror.” His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II tweeted that “the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas extended his country’s sympathies to those who lost loved ones, saying “if people are murdered solely because of their religion, that is an attack on all of us.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the “dastardly terrorist attack” and offered his condolences, as did several other world leaders.
A telegram of condolences sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life” caused by the “senseless acts of violence” in Christchurch. He assured all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his “heartfelt solidarity.”
Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre
By KRISTEN GELINEAU, JULIET WILLIAMS and STEPHEN WRIGHT
Monday, March 18
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — They came together as one, more than 1,000 students from rival Christchurch schools and different religions, joining voices to honor the 50 lives lost in a massacre that has deeply wounded the cozy New Zealand city.
In a park across from the Al Noor mosque, where dozens were killed by a white supremacist gunman, the students sat on the grass in Monday’s fading daylight, lifting flickering candles to the sky as they sang a traditional Maori song.
Hundreds then stood to perform a passionate, defiant haka, the famed ceremonial dance of the indigenous Maori people.
For many, joining the vigil for the victims of the mass shooting was a much-needed opportunity to soothe their minds after a wrenching few days.
Most of the students spent hours locked down in their schools on Friday as police tried to determine if any other shooters were involved in the attacks.
Those at the vigil told harrowing tales of being forced to hide under classroom tables or on a school stage behind a curtain, of being instructed not to speak, and to urinate in a bucket rather than risk leaving the classroom for a bathroom.
Sarah Liddell, 17, said many of her peers felt intense anxiety since the attack. There was a sense of safety in coming together on Monday, she said.
“I feel like it’s just really important to show everyone that one act of violence doesn’t define a whole city,” she said. “This is one of the best ways to show everyone coming together. Some schools have little funny rivalries, but in times like this we all just come together and that’s all forgotten.”
The students draped a fence along the park with chains of colorful paper notes, each emblazoned with messages of love and hope and sorrow: “You are not alone.” ”This is your home. You are part of us.” ”We all bleed the same colour.”
For 17-year-old Portia Raharaha, who attended the vigil with other students from her Catholic high school, watching the haka was particularly moving.
“All the races combining, all students, all ages, both genders, we’re all just coming together,” Raharaha said. “It definitely makes you feel like New Zealand really does come together in a time of darkness and we can really just be who we are,” she said. “Nothing has really changed. Maybe it’s shaken us, but it really hasn’t changed us.”
After the ceremony officially ended, many lingered, standing in circles, arms draped around each other’s shoulders, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Maori songs. People wandered around with “free hugs” signs, embracing those in need. There were tears, but also smiles.
The students’ vigil was a striking and healing counterpoint to Monday’s developments in the mass shooting.
A Christchurch gun shop acknowledged selling guns online to the 28-year-old white supremacist accused of killing 50 people in shootings at two mosques that have upturned New Zealand’s reputation as one of the world’s most tolerant and safe nations.
At a news conference, Gun City owner David Tipple said the store sold four guns and ammunition to Brenton Harrison Tarrant through a “police-verified online mail order process.” The store “detected nothing extraordinary” about the buyer, he said.
Separately, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said gun law reforms would be announced within 10 days and an inquiry conducted into intelligence and security services that failed to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans. There have been concerns intelligence agencies were overly focused on the Muslim community in detecting and preventing security risks.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police are certain that Tarrant was the only gunman but aren’t ruling out that he had support.
“I would like to state that we believe absolutely there was only one attacker responsible for this,” he said at a news conference. “That doesn’t mean there weren’t possibly other people in support and that continues to form a very, very important part of our investigation.”
None of the guns sold to Tarrant were military-style, semi-automatic weapons, according to Tipple. It was not clear if any of the firearms Tarrant purchased from Gun City were used in the shootings.
In vowing to tighten gun laws, Ardern has said the attacker used five guns, two of them semi-automatic, which were purchased with an ordinary gun license and modified.
Tipple said he was disgusted by the killings but felt no responsibility for the tragedy and refused to say whether he believed gun ownership laws should change in New Zealand, insisting that a debate over guns should be held at another time.
His store has been criticized, in the wake of the shootings, for leaving out a roadside advertising billboard that shows a parent helping children with rifle target practice.
Tarrant, an Australian citizen who lived in New Zealand, appeared Saturday in court, where the judge read one murder charge and said more would likely follow.
Tarrant had posted a muddled, 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to stream live video of the slaughter.
Relatives of the dead are now anxiously awaiting word on when they can bury their loved ones. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.
Ardern has said authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday and police said authorities are working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they can.
Members of the Muslim community and police were at a cemetery that has been fenced off and obscured with white netting. Backhoes had stopped digging and police officers said they were setting up a media area inside the cemetery.
Kawthar Abulaban, 54, who survived the shooting at the Al Noor mosque, came to the cemetery to see the preparations. She did not mind the row of photographers and reporters lined up outside.
“It’s good for the world to see what’s happened because people around the world, they thought we were terrorists because some stupid people, they said they are Muslims, they go and kill innocent people,” said Abulaban, who migrated to New Zealand from Jordan 17 years ago.
“I will not change my opinion about New Zealand. It’s my country,” she said. “You know I have lots of support, lots of love, lots of kindness from all of the New Zealand people.”
Associated Press writer Nick Perry contributed.
Trump says media trying to blame him for NZ massacre
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he is unfairly being blamed for the New Zealand mosque massacre.
Trump tweeted Monday that the media “is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.” He adds: “They will have to work very hard to prove that one.”
The gunman in last week’s massacre left a document in which he called himself a white nationalist and referred to Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity.”
Trump had expressed sympathy for the victims, but played down the threat of white nationalism across the world, saying he didn’t consider it a rising threat despite data suggesting it’s growing.
In the past, Trump has drawn criticism for saying “both sides” were to blame for violence at a deadly white supremacist demonstration.