Christchurch mosque shootings
Part of Terrorism in New Zealand
Canterbury Mosque 12 June 2006 (adjusted levels).jpg
The Al Noor Mosque in 2006
The mosques are located in Christchurch, New Zealand
Al Noor Mosque
Al Noor Mosque
Linwood Islamic Centre
Linwood Islamic Centre

Christchurch is located in New Zealand
Christchurch
Christchurch

LocationChristchurch, New Zealand
Coordinates
  • 43°31′58″S 172°36′42″E / 43.5329°S 172.6118°E / -43.5329; 172.6118
  • (Al Noor Mosque)
  • 43°31′57″S 172°40′21″E / 43.53239°S 172.67255°E / -43.53239; 172.67255
  • (Linwood Islamic Centre)
Date15 March 2019 (2019-03-15)
1:40 pm (NZDT; UTC+13)
TargetMuslim worshippers
Attack type
Mass shooting,[1] terrorist attack,[2] shooting spree
WeaponsTwo semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns
Deaths51[3]
  • 42 at the Al Noor Mosque
  • 7 at the Linwood Islamic Centre
  • 2 later at Christchurch Hospital
Non-fatal injuries
49
Motive
Charges51 counts of murder
40 counts of attempted murder
One count of engaging in a terrorist act

The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019.[6] The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at about 1:55 pm.[7][8][9][10] The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.[11]

The attacks killed 51 people;[12][13] and 49 people were injured.[3] A 28-year-old Australian man, described in media reports as a white supremacist and part of the alt-right, was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder and terrorism.[14][15][16][17] He pleaded not guilty to all charges, with the trial expected to start in May 2020.[18] The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally[19][20] observed since the mid-2010s.[21][22] Politicians and world leaders condemned the attacks,[23] and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as "one of New Zealand's darkest days".[24] The government established a royal commission of inquiry into its security agencies in the wake of the attacks, which are the deadliest mass shootings in modern New Zealand history.[25][26]

Background

New Zealand has often been considered a safe country, and has a relatively low level of homicide.[27] These attacks were the first mass shooting in the country since the Raurimu massacre in 1997.[28] Prior to that, the deadliest public mass shooting was the 1990 Aramoana massacre, in which 13 people died.[29] While the country has rarely been associated with the extreme right,[30] experts have suggested that far-right extremism has been growing in New Zealand.[31] The sociologist Paul Spoonley has called Christchurch a hotbed for white supremacists and the extreme nationalist movement,[31] a suggestion rejected by Christchurch MP Gerry Brownlee.[32] Australia, where the alleged gunman was from, has also seen an increase in xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.[33]

Islam is practised by over 46,000 New Zealanders (1.2% of the population), 3,000 of them in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region.[34] The Al Noor Mosque opened in 1985; it was the first mosque in the South Island.[35] The Linwood Islamic Centre opened in early 2018.[36]

Attacks

Al Noor Mosque

The gunman began shooting worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque, Riccarton, at around 1:40 pm. Police received the first emergency call at 1:41 pm.[37] Between three hundred and five hundred people may have been inside the mosque attending Friday Prayer at the time of the shooting.[38] A neighbour of the mosque told reporters he saw the gunman flee and drop what appeared to be a firearm in the driveway.[39]

The gunman live-streamed the first 17 minutes of this attack on Facebook Live, starting with the drive to the mosque and ending with the drive away.[40] Moments before the shooting, he played several songs including "The British Grenadiers", a traditional British military marching song, and "Serbia Strong", a Serb nationalist song celebrating Radovan Karadžić, who was found guilty of genocide against Bosnian Muslims.[41][42][43][44] One witness said the gunman continued to play "military music" from a portable speaker inside the mosque.[45] As he approached the front entrance to the mosque, the gunman appeared to be greeted by one of the worshippers, who said "Hello, brother" and was the first victim to be killed in the attacks.[46][47][48]

The gunman spent several minutes inside the mosque, shooting attendees indiscriminately. He killed three people near the entrance and dozens more inside a prayer hall. A strobe-light attached to one of his weapons was used to disorient victims.[49] During the attack, a worshipper, Naeem Rashid, charged at him and was shot; he later died from his injuries.[50][51][52][53] The gunman fired indiscriminately at worshippers in the prayer hall from medium range and shot many of his victims several times. He soon left the mosque and fired at people outside. He then retrieved another weapon from his vehicle before returning to the mosque to kill more victims, many of whom were already wounded and unable to escape. He then exited the mosque again and killed a woman near the footpath as she pleaded for help. He left the scene shortly thereafter, in his car,[46][54] to the music of "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown,[55][56][57] where the singer proclaims: "I am the god of hellfire!"[58][59][60]

He had spent about six minutes at the Al Noor Mosque.[61] As the gunman drove away from the mosque the first emergency services arrived on scene. He shot other civilians in the area and drove away at high speed, heading in the direction of the Linwood Islamic Centre. About 3 minutes after the gunman left the mosque, his vehicle passed by one or more police vehicles heading towards the mosque, but remained undetected as he continued on his way to the Linwood Islamic Centre.[61][62][63][64]

Linwood Islamic Centre

A second attack began at about 1:55 pm[65] at the Linwood Islamic Centre,[66][67] a mosque 5 kilometres (3 mi) east of the Al Noor Mosque.[46] According to a witness, the gunman initially did not find the mosque's main door, and shot people outside and through a window, alerting those inside.[68]

The mosque's acting imam credited a worshipper named Abdul Aziz Wahabzada with stopping the attack.[69][70][71][72] Wahabzada told reporters he had taken a credit card reader and ran out of the mosque, by which time the attacker outside had already shot several people. The attacker was about to retrieve another gun from his car, so Wahabzada threw the reader at him. The gunman took a rifle from his car and fired at Wahabzada, who took cover among nearby cars and retrieved an empty shotgun the gunman had dropped. Despite Wahabzada's attempt to draw the attention of the gunman away from the mosque by shouting "I'm here!", the gunman entered the mosque and continued firing. When the gunman returned to his car again, Wahabzada threw the shotgun at the car, shattering one of its windows or its windscreen. The gunman then drove away.[69][70][71][73]

Arrest

Early reports indicated "multiple, simultaneous attack[s]",[74] but later only a single suspect was implicated.[75][76] He was arrested on Brougham Street in Sydenham, 21 minutes after the first emergency call.[77] Video footage showed his car had been rammed against the kerb by a police car before his arrest at gunpoint.[78][79] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the suspect had been planning to continue the attacks at a third location,[80] possibly the mosque in Ashburton or the An-Nur Child Care Centre in Hornby;[81] According to her, "There were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack".[82] Police Commissioner Mike Bush corroborated this, saying police had stopped the suspect on his way to a third location.[83]

Victims

Fifty-one people (47 of them male, and 4 female) were killed in the attacks: 42 at the Al Noor Mosque, 7 at the Linwood Islamic Centre,[8] one who died shortly after in Christchurch Hospital, and another who died in the hospital on 2 May, seven weeks after the attacks.[62][84][3] The dead were between 3 and 77 years old.[85] The hospital's Chief of Surgery said on 16 March that four had died in ambulances en route to the hospital.[86] On 17 March, Commissioner Bush said 50 other people had been injured in the attacks, 36 of whom were being treated for gunshot wounds in hospital.[12][13] Two were in a serious condition, and a 4-year-old girl was transferred to Starship Hospital in Auckland in a critical condition.[87]

In the days following the attacks, dozens of people remained missing[88] and several diplomatic offices and foreign ministries released statements regarding the number of victims from their respective nations.[89][90][91] Police requested that those listed as missing who were in fact not missing register themselves as safe on the Restoring Family Links website.[92] The New Zealand Red Cross published a list of missing people which included nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.[93] Among the dead listed in New Zealand Police media releases were citizens of Bangladesh, Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Pakistan and Palestine.[94][95][96][97] A Turkish citizen died in hospital in early May.[3] Atta Elayyan, an IT entrepreneur and player in the national futsal team, was among those killed.[98][99]

Suspect

Police charged Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, with murder in relation to the attacks.[100] At the time of his arrest, he had been living for a few years in Andersons Bay in Dunedin.[101] He was a member of a South Otago gun club and practised shooting at its range.[102] He grew up in Grafton, New South Wales, attended Grafton High School,[103] and worked as a personal trainer in his hometown from 2009 to 2011.[104] Around 2012, he started visiting a number of countries in Asia and Europe. Police in Bulgaria and Turkey are investigating his visits to their countries.[105][106] 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.[107]

Security officials suspect he had come into contact with far-right organisations about two years before the shooting, while visiting European nations.[108] He donated 1,500 euros to Identitäre Bewegung Österreich (IBÖ), the Austrian branch of Generation Identity (part of the Identitarian movement) in Europe, as well as 2,200 euros to Génération Identitaire, the French branch of the group as well as interacting with IBO leader Martin Sellner via emails between January 2018 and July 2018 with an offer to meetup in Vienna and a link to his YouTube channel.[109][110][111] Captivated with sites of battles between Christian European nations and the Ottoman Empire, he went on another series of visits to the Balkans in 2016–2018, with Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina confirming his presence there in these years.[112] He posted a slew of Balkan nationalist material on social media platforms,[113] and called for the United States to be weakened in order to prevent events such as the NATO intervention in Kosovo in response to a Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign against Muslim Kosovo Albanians.[42][112][114] He said he was against intervention by NATO because he saw the Serbian military as "Christian Europeans attempting to remove these Islamic occupiers from Europe".[42][114]

Three years prior to the attacks, he praised Blair Cottrell as a leader of the far-right movements in Australia and made more than 30 comments on the now-deleted "United Patriots Front" and "True Blue Crew" pages. An Australian Broadcasting Corporation team who studied the comments called them "fragments and digital impressions of a well-travelled young man who frequented hate-filled anonymous messaging boards and was deeply engaged in a global alt-right culture."[115] A Melbourne man said that in 2016 he filed a police complaint after Tarrant allegedly told him in an online conversation, "I hope one day you meet the rope". He said that the police told him to block Tarrant and did not file an investigation. The police said that they were unable to locate a complaint.[116]

Weapons

Police recovered five guns at the scene: two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm.[117] According to Police Minister Stuart Nash, one of the firearms used by the gunman was an AR-15 style rifle.[118] Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the gunman held a firearms licence with an "A" endorsement,[119] and he started buying his arsenal in December 2017, a month after acquiring his licence. According to a city gun store, the gunman bought four firearms and ammunition online.[120] The shop stated that none of the four were military style weapons, and it is not known yet if these guns were the ones used in the attacks. The shop did not detect anything unusual or extraordinary about the customer.[121] Additionally, he illegally[122] replaced the semi-automatic rifles' small, legal magazines with 30-round magazines, also legally purchased online.[123][124]

The guns and magazines used were covered in white writing naming historical events, people, and motifs related to historical conflicts, wars, and battles between Muslims and European Christians,[42][114][125][126] as well as the names of recent Islamic terrorist attack victims and the names of far-right attackers.[127] The markings also included references to "Turkofagos" (Turk eater), a term used by Greeks during the Greek War of Independence and white supremacist slogans such as the anti-Muslim phrase "Remove Kebab" that originated from Serbia and the Fourteen Words.[42][125][126] Apart from the Latin alphabet, writings on the weaponry were in the Cyrillic, Armenian and Georgian alphabets.[125] On his pack was a Black Sun patch, and two dog tags: one with a Celtic cross, and one with a Slavic swastika design.[128] Police also found two improvised explosive devices attached to a car; these were defused by the New Zealand Defence Force.[129] No explosives were found on the gunman.[130]

Manifesto

Tarrant is allegedly the author of a 74-page manifesto titled "The Great Replacement", a reference to the "Great Replacement" and "white genocide" conspiracy theories.[131] It said the attacks were planned two years prior, and that the location was selected three months prior.[132] Minutes before the attacks began, the manifesto was emailed to more than 30 recipients, including the prime minister's office and several media outlets,[133] and links were shared on Twitter and 8chan.[134][135]

In the manifesto several anti-immigrant sentiments are expressed, including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for all non-European immigrants in Europe who are claimed to be "invading his land" to be removed.[136] The manifesto displays neo-Nazi symbols such as the Black Sun and the Odin's cross. However, the author denies being a Nazi,[137] describing himself instead as an "ethno-nationalist",[114][138][139] an "eco-fascist"[140][141][142] and a "kebab removalist", in reference to a meme exalting the genocide of Bosnian Muslims that occurred during the Bosnian War.[143] The author cites Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and others as an inspiration. He says he supports U.S. president Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose", but not as "a policy maker and leader".[136]

The manifesto was described by some media outlets as "shitposting"—trolling designed to engender conflict between certain groups and people.[144][145][146] On 23 March 2019, the manifesto was deemed "objectionable" by the Chief Censor of New Zealand, making it unlawful from that date to possess or distribute it in New Zealand.[147]

Legal proceedings

Tarrant appeared in the Christchurch District Court on 16 March, where he was charged with one representative count of murder.[148] The judge ordered the courtroom closed to the public except for accredited media, and allowed the accused to be filmed and photographed on the condition that his face be pixellated.[149] In court, he smiled at reporters and made an inverted OK gesture below his waist, said to be a "white power" sign.[150]

The case was transferred to the High Court and he was remanded in custody, as his lawyer did not seek bail.[151] He was subsequently transferred to the country's only maximum-security unit at Auckland Prison.[152] He has lodged a formal complaint regarding his prison conditions, on the grounds that he has no access to newspapers, television, Internet, visitors or phone calls.[153] On 4 April, police announced they had increased the total number of charges to 89, 50 for murder and 39 for attempted murder, with other charges still under consideration.[154] At the next hearing on 5 April, he was ordered by the judge to undergo a psychiatric assessment of his mental fitness to stand trial.[155]

On 21 May 2019, Commissioner Bush announced that a new charge of engaging in a terrorist act had been laid against Tarrant under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. One murder charge and one attempted murder charge were also added, bringing the total to 51 and 40 respectively.[156]

On 14 June 2019, Tarrant appeared at the Christchurch High Court via audio-visual link from Auckland Prison. Through his lawyer, he pleaded not guilty to engaging in a terrorist act, 51 counts of murder, and 40 counts of attempted murder. Mental health assessments had indicated no issues regarding his fitness to plead or stand trial. The trial date was set for 4 May 2020; the Crown prosecutor estimated the trial would last around six weeks. Tarrant was remanded in custody, and the case was adjourned until 16 August 2019 for case review.[18]

If convicted for murder involving multiple deaths, or of a terrorist act, he faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole being granted after 17 years. The sentencing judge may, taking into account the aggravating and mitigating factors of the offence, extend the non-parole period or impose life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.[157][158]:102–4

Aftermath

Emergency services response

Commissioner Bush said police were at the first scene within minutes of the incident being reported at 1:42 pm.[159] It was initially understood that the arrest had taken 36 minutes, but it was later clarified that it had taken 21 minutes.[160] In response to criticism that police were too slow to react, District Commander John Price said: "That is an incredibly fast response time. You had a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city."[159]

St. John Ambulance sent 20 ambulances and other vehicles to the mosques.[161] Most of the wounded were taken to Christchurch Hospital. Forty-eight people with gunshot wounds, including young children, were treated at the hospital,[162][163] with some taken to other hospitals within Christchurch and nationally.[164] Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass-casualty plan.[162] Paramedics describe a 'river of blood' coming out of the mosque[165] and having to step over bodies to collect the wounded.[166]

Police advised all mosques in the country to close until further notice, and sent officers to secure various sites in Christchurch.[167] 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.[168][169] Security was increased at Parliament, and public tours of the buildings were cancelled.[170] In Dunedin, the Armed Offenders Squad searched a house and cordoned off part of the surrounding street in Andersons Bay because the attacker had indicated on social media that he had originally planned to target the Al Huda Mosque in that city.[171][172]

Governmental response

For the first time in New Zealand history, the terrorism threat level was raised to high.[173] Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an "act of extreme and unprecedented violence" on "one of New Zealand's darkest days".[174][175][176] She described it as a "well-planned" terrorist attack.[164] She said she would render the person accused of the attacks "nameless" and urged the public to speak the victims' names instead.[177] A meeting of the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination was convened to coordinate the government's response.[178] Ardern, who had just left a school climate-strike rally in New Plymouth,[179] returned to her hotel along with the Minister for Security and Intelligence, Andrew Little, to give a press statement. Ardern cancelled her remaining public engagements scheduled for that day, including opening the WOMAD international arts festival.[180] She then boarded an RNZAF plane to fly to Wellington to join official meetings taking place at the Beehive.[181] Ardern issued a directive that flags on "all Government and public buildings" should be flown at half-mast until further notice.[182]

Cabinet agreed to hold an inquiry into the attacks, and announced on 25 March that it would take the form of a royal commission of inquiry.[26] Little told Radio New Zealand, "I have given authority to the agencies to do intrusive activities under warrant, the number of those (warrants) I’m not at liberty to disclose."[183] He said that the intelligence services usually put 30 to 40 people under monitoring at a time. Although more people than usual were being monitored, he was not willing to reveal how many. He also stated that the operations could be anything from physical surveillance to watching telecommunications activity.[184]

On 8 April 2019, Prime Minister Ardern confirmed the terms of reference for the royal commission of inquiry, and announced that Supreme Court justice Sir William Young would chair the inquiry.[185]

Other responses in New Zealand

A woman adds a flower arrangement to a large memorial display set against a fence.
Patsy Reddy laying flowers at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens on 19 March

Within an hour of the attacks, all schools in the city were placed in "lockdown".[186][187] Some schoolchildren in lockdown still had their mobile phones, and some were able to view the footage of the first attack online.[188] School strikers at the Global School Strike rally in Cathedral Square, near the sites of the attacks, were advised by police either to seek refuge in public buildings or go home.[189][190] In response to security concerns, the University of Otago postponed its sesquicentennial street parade which had been scheduled for 16 March.[171][172]

The third test-cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh, scheduled to commence at Hagley Oval in Hagley Park on 16 March, was likewise cancelled due to security concerns.[191] The Bangladesh team were planning to attend Friday Prayer at the Al Noor Mosque, and were moments from entering the building when the incident began.[192][193] The players then fled on foot to Hagley Oval.[194] Two days later, Canterbury withdrew from their match against Wellington in the Plunket Shield cricket tournament.[195] Likewise the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders, based in Christchurch, and Highlanders, based in Dunedin, due to be played the next day was cancelled as "a mark of respect for the events".[196] After the attacks, there were renewed calls to rename the Crusaders team, which derives from the medieval Crusades against Muslims.[197][198]

Two concerts scheduled to be held in Christchurch on 17 March—by singer-songwriter Bryan Adams and the thrash-metal band Slayer—were also cancelled.[199] The Polynesian cultural festival Polyfest was cancelled after the shootings, with security concerns cited as the reason.[200] The music and cultural festival WOMAD went ahead in New Plymouth despite the attacks, with armed police stationed around the festival perimeter, inside the event, and outside artists' hotels.[201]

An online fundraiser started to support victims and their families has, as of 20 March 2019, raised over NZ$6.7 million.[202][203] Counting other fundraisers, a combined total of $8.4 million has been raised for the victims and their families (as of 20 March 2019).[204] Prime Minister Ardern reiterated that those injured or killed in the shootings and their immediate families are covered by the country's accident-compensation scheme, ACC, which offers compensation for lost income and a $10,000 funeral grant, among other benefits.[205][206]

The mosques involved in the attacks, and others around the country and the world, have become the focus of vigils, messages, and floral tributes.[207][208][209][210] The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, encouraged people to lay flowers outside the city's Botanic Gardens.[211] As a mark of sympathy and solidarity, school pupils and other groups performed haka and waiata to honour those killed in the attacks.[212][213] Street gangs including the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, and the King Cobras sent members to mosques around the country to help protect them during prayer time.[214][215][216] One week after the attacks, an open-air Friday prayer service was held in Hagley Park. Broadcast nationally on radio and television, it was attended by 20,000 people, including Ardern,[217][218][219] who said "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one." The imam of the Al Noor Mosque thanked New Zealanders for their support and added, "We are broken-hearted but we are not broken."[220] A national remembrance service was held on 29 March, a fortnight after the attacks.[221]

Global response

On 15 May 2019, Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron co-hosted the Christchurch Call summit in Paris,[222][223] which called for major technology companies to step up their efforts to combat violent extremism.[224] The accord's founding signatory nations were Australia, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In addition, the technology companies Amazon, DailyMotion, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Qwant, Twitter and YouTube also signed.[225]

Related arrests and incidents

New Zealand

Police arrested four people on 15 March in relation to the attacks,[226][186][173] including a woman and a man, after finding a firearm in a vehicle in which they were travelling together.[227] The woman was released uncharged, but the man was held in custody and was charged with a firearms offence.[228] Additionally, a 30-year-old man said he was arrested when he arrived, unarmed, at Papanui High School to pick up his 13-year-old brother-in-law. He was in camouflage clothing, which he said he habitually wore.[229] He said police gave him a verbal warning for disorderly behaviour.[230] He is seeking compensation for a wrongful arrest. The actions were defended by police, who mentioned the threat level after the massacre and that they had to deal with reports possibly related to the attacks.[229]

Outside New Zealand

A 24-year-old man from Oldham in the Greater Manchester Area of the United Kingdom was arrested on 16 March for sending Facebook posts in support of the shooting.[231][232][233] On 20 March, an employee for Transguard, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, was fired by his company and deported due to making comments in support of the shooting.[234][235]

In Canada, neo-Nazis Paul Fromm and Kevin Goudreau were put under investigation after the former shared the manifesto of the shooter on the website of his organization Canadian Association for Free Expression.[236][237]

A 22-year old self-described "Folk Odinist" and founder of a Facebook group known as Odin's Warriors and a member of multiple white nationalist organizations named Thomas Alan Bolin and his cousin Austin Witkowski attempted to commit a copycat attack in Baltimore, Maryland. Under their aliases "Peter Vincent" and "Ragnar Odinson" they sent threatening messages on Facebook Messenger and they planned to buy food, ammunition and firearms to meet up but Bolin broke his arm. Bolin reacted positively to the Christchurch mosque shooting video and manifesto stating "Brugh dude killed 40 Muslims". Bolin was photographed wearing a black hoodie with a devil mask. He was later convicted of lying to the FBI for claiming he did not have firearms.[238]

Nine days after the attack, an arson attack against a mosque took place at Escondido, California, United States. Police found graffiti on the mosque's driveway that referenced the Christchurch shootings, leading the police to consider the fire as a terrorist attack.[239][240] The Poway synagogue shooting took place on 27 April 2019, killing one person and injuring three others. The perpetrator claimed responsibility for the previous mosque fire, attempted to live stream the shooting, and praised the Christchurch shootings in a manifesto. Both the perpetrator and Tarrant were radicalized on 8chan's /pol/ discussion board.[241]

Reactions

World leaders have spoken about the attacks. Some groups in New Zealand shut down their websites.

World leaders

A photo of a woman from the waist up, hands clasped in front of her, with a sad facial expression. She is wearing a black dress and scarf with gold trim.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited members of the Muslim community at the Phillipstown Community Hub in Christchurch the day after the attacks.

Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand's head of state, said she was "deeply saddened" by the attacks.[242][243] Other politicians and world leaders also condemned the attacks,[23][note 1] with some attributing them to rising Islamophobia.[280][281] The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, announced that Pakistani emigrant Naeem Rashid, who charged at the gunman and died as a result of the attack on the Al Noor Mosque, would be posthumously honoured with a national award for his courage.[282] The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, announced that "In the future, whenever we send our cricket team abroad, we will do that after examining and reviewing the security matters of the host countries" and added that Bangladesh had always provided highest security to visiting foreign teams.[283] Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić condemned the Christchurch attack and said that the shooter "has nothing to do with Serbia."[284] Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić criticized media for implying that Serbs should be blamed for the shootings.[112]

The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, showed footage taken by the attacker to his supporters at campaign rallies for upcoming local elections.[285][286] The New Zealand and Australian governments,[287] as well as Turkey's main opposition party, have criticised his actions.[288] U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the "horrible massacre".[289] When asked after the attacks if he thought white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, Trump 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."[290]

Far-right

Two New Zealand-based anti-immigration groups, the Dominion Movement and the New Zealand National Front, quickly condemned the attacks, distanced themselves from the perpetrator, and shut down their websites.[291] A number of 8chan users praised the attacks.[143] The United Kingdom's domestic intelligence service, MI5, launched an inquiry into the gunman's possible links to the British far right.[292]

Islamic groups

Ahmed Bhamji, chair of the largest mosque in New Zealand,[293] spoke at a rally on 23 March in front of one thousand people.[294][295] He claimed that Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, was behind the attack. The claim has been widely described as an unfounded, antisemitic conspiracy theory. The chairman of FIANZ said that Bhamji's statement did not represent other New Zealand Muslims, but Bhamji defended his statements.[293][294][296]

Sri Lanka bombings

According to Sri Lankan State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings on 21 April 2019 were retaliation for the Christchurch attack.[297][298][299][300] However, some analysts believe the attacks to have been planned before the Christchurch attack.[301][302] Linkage between the two attacks was questioned by New Zealand's government. Prime Minister Ardern stated she was not aware of any intelligence linking the Sri Lankan attacks to the Christchurch shootings.[303]

Video distribution

Copies of the live-streamed video were reposted on many platforms and file-sharing websites, including Facebook,[304] LiveLeak, and YouTube.[305] Police, Muslim-advocacy groups and government agencies urged anyone who found the footage to take it down or report it.[306]

The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification quickly classified the video as "objectionable", making it a criminal offence in the country to distribute, copy, or exhibit the video, with potential penalties of up to 14 years' imprisonment for an individual, or up to $100,000 in fines for a corporation.[307][308][309] At least eight persons have been arrested for possessing or sharing the video or manifesto, most subject to name suppression to prevent either threats against them or support of freedom of expression online.[310] An 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with inciting racial disharmony under the Human Rights Act.[311] Although authorities said he was not involved in the shootings,[12] he was denied bail, and faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted on all charges.[312][313] He appeared in Christchurch District Court on 18 March faced with a charge of distributing the video, and a second charge of making an objectionable publication by posting, between 8 and 15 March, a photo of the Al Noor Mosque bearing the message "target acquired", as well as other chat messages "inciting extreme violence".[314][315] On 19 March, an Australian man who had posted on social media praising the Christchurch shootings, was indicted on one count of aggravated possession of a firearm without a licence and four counts of using or possessing a prohibited weapon. He was released on bail on the condition that he stay offline.[316][317][318][319] On 20 March, a Christchurch man was indicted on two charges of sharing a live-stream of the mosque shootings under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. He was denied bail and was remanded in custody until his next court appearance, scheduled for 15 April. His company also attracted criticism for its use of Nazi symbols.[320][321][322][323] The Christchurch man subsequently pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing video footage of the Al Noor attack, one count of sharing the accused livestream footage to approximately 30 people on Facebook, and requesting that another person add a cross-hair and kill count to the footage. In June 2019, he was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment.[324][325]

Several media organisations in Australia and tabloid-news websites in the UK broadcast parts of the video, up to the point the gunman entered the building, despite pleas from the New Zealand Police not to show it.[326][327] Sky Television New Zealand temporarily stopped its syndication of Sky News Australia after that network showed the footage, and said it was working with Sky News Australia to prevent further displays of the video.[328] At least three Internet service providers in New Zealand blocked access to 8chan and other sites related to the attacks,[329] and have temporarily blocked other sites hosting the video such as 4chan, LiveLeak, and Mega until they comply with requests to take down copies of the video.[330] The administrator of the online message board Kiwi Farms refused a New Zealand Police request for the data of users who made posts related to the suspect and the attacks.[331][332]

Social media sites including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter said they were working diligently to remove the video from their platforms and would also remove anything posted in support of the attacks.[333][334] According to Facebook, no complaints were made about the video until 12 minutes after the live-stream ended;[335] the original video from the attacker himself had been viewed fewer than 200 times before Facebook was notified of its content, and it had been viewed only 4,000 times before it was removed, which happened within minutes of notification. Facebook created a digital hash fingerprint to detect further uploads, however by this point the video had been propagated on other sites.[336] Facebook said it had blocked 1.5 million uploads of the video and images from it in the day after the attacks, including edited versions, with most blocking occurring through use of the fingerprint to prevent visibility.[336][337] Reddit banned "subreddits" named "WatchPeopleDie" and "Gore", saying threads there had glorified the attacks, in violation of user agreements.[338][339][340] Microsoft, in light of how social media sites handled the content related to the shooting, proposed the establishment of industry-wide standards that would flag such content quickly, and, in the wake of similar major events, operate a joint virtual command center to manage and control the spread of such information via social media.[341]

Despite the networks' attempts to self-police, New Zealand officials and other world leaders have asked them to take responsibility for extremist content posted on their services.[336] Australia introduced legislation that would fine content providers and potentially imprison their executives if they do not remove violent imagery of these types of attacks.[342] The French Council of the Muslim Faith filed a lawsuit against Facebook and YouTube, accusing the companies of "broadcasting a message with violent content abetting terrorism, or of a nature likely to seriously violate human dignity and liable to be seen by a minor".[343] Facebook has contested the lawsuit, stating, "Acts of terror and hate speech have no place on Facebook, and our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the entire community affected by this tragedy. We have taken many steps to remove this video from our platform, we are cooperating with the authorities".[343]

Stuart Bender of Curtin University in Perth noted that the use of live video as an integral part of the attacks "makes [them] a form of 'performance crime' where the act of video recording and/or streaming the violence by the perpetrator is a central component of the violence itself, rather than being incidental."[344] Just before carrying out the attacks, the gunman said to-camera, "Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie", referring to the most subscribed YouTuber at the time, Felix Kjellberg, who goes by the alias PewDiePie.[345][346][347] The apparent intent, as with the manifesto, was to spread news of the attacks—in this case to Kjellberg's followers, who number in the tens of millions.[144][348] Kjellberg later called for the phrase to be discontinued.[349] In response, Kjellberg tweeted, "Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy."[346]

Gun laws

Gun laws in New Zealand came under scrutiny in the aftermath, specifically the legality of military-style semi-automatic rifles[350] compared to Australia, which banned them after the Port Arthur massacre, in 1996.[351] In 2018, for example, it was reported that of the 1.5 million registered firearms in New Zealand, 15,000 were semi-automatic weapons.[352] As Philip Alpers of GunPolicy.org 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."[353][354] Cabinet, however, remains undecided on the creation of a register.[355][356][357]

Prime Minister Ardern announced: "Our gun laws will change, now is the time ... People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that."[353] She continued, "There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change."[358] Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government would ban semi-automatic guns,[359] but subsequently backtracked, 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.[360]

The day after the attacks, some gun-store owners reported an increase in sales, particularly of semi-automatic weapons, in response to the prospect of stricter laws.[361] The New Zealand auction website Trade Me banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons on its platform,[362] and some gun owners responded to the attacks by voluntarily handing in their weapons to police.[363]

At a press conference on 18 March, Ardern said details of the proposed reforms would be given by 25 March.[364] On 21 March, she announced a ban, adding that she was working to have legislation in place as early as 11 April. As a transitional measure, from 3:00 pm that day, some semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were classified as requiring the owner to hold a licence with an "E" endorsement. "After a reasonable period for returns, those who continue to possess these firearms will be in contravention of the law," Radio New Zealand reported. A "gun buy-back" scheme was also considered.[365]

The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 1 April, and passed its first reading the following day.[366] The final reading was passed on 10 April, and it became law by the end of the week.[367][368][369] All legally obtained semiautomatic and military-grade firearms and their relevant ammunition can be handed over to police on a trade-in scheme.[370][371][372]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ 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.[244][245][246] 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".[247] Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau expressed "deepest condolences" and said "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.[248] 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[249][250][251][252] while security at mosques around the United States was increased.[253][254] 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".[255] 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.[256] King Salman of Saudi Arabia said: "The heinous massacre of the worshipers at mosques in New Zealand is a terrorist act."[257] He also called on the international community to confront hate speech and terrorism.[257][258] 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."[259] Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India expressed "deep shock and sadness" over the deaths and expressed India's solidarity with the people of New Zealand.[260] Condolences were also provided by Azerbaijani,[261] Bangladeshi,[262] Bruneian,[263] Cambodian,[264] Chinese,[265] Fijian,[266] Filipino,[267] Hungarian,[268] Indonesian,[269] Japanese,[270] South Korean,[271] Kosovar,[272] Malaysian,[273] Pakistani,[274] Singaporean,[275] Taiwanese,[276] Thai,[277] Turkish,[278] and Vietnamese[279] leaders.

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External links

  • Quotations related to Christchurch mosque shootings at Wikiquote
  • Media related to Christchurch mosque shootings at Wikimedia Commons
  • The last prayer: surviving Christchurch terror attack, a documentary about the mosque shootings by Turkish news channel TRT World