Christchurch mosque shootings
|Christchurch mosque shootings|
|Part of Terrorism in New Zealand|
The Al Noor Mosque in 2006
|Location||Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Date||15 March 2019 (2019-03-15)
1:40 pm (NZDT; UTC+13)
|Mass shooting, terrorist attack|
|Weapons||Two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns, one lever-action rifle, undetonated car bombs|
The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. 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. The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.
The attacks killed 50 people and injured 50 more. 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. The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally observed since the mid-2010s.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the attacks as "one of New Zealand's darkest days". Politicians and world leaders condemned the attacks. It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.
New Zealand has often been considered a safe country, and has a relatively low level of homicide. The shootings in Christchurch were the first mass shooting since the Raurimu massacre in 1997. The country's previous deadliest public mass shooting was the 1990 Aramoana massacre, in which 13 people died.
Experts have suggested that far-right extremism has been growing in New Zealand, a country rarely associated with the extreme right. Christchurch in particular has been labelled a "hotbed for white supremacists", a claim rejected by Christchurch MP Gerry Brownlee. Australia, where the alleged gunman was from, has also seen a recent increase in xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia.
Islam is practised by over 46,000 New Zealanders (1.2 percent of the population), including over 3,000 people in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. The Al Noor Mosque opened in 1985, the first mosque in the South Island. The Linwood Islamic Centre opened in early 2018.
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. Between three hundred and five hundred people may have been inside the mosque attending Friday Prayer at the time of the shooting. A neighbour of the mosque told reporters he saw the gunman flee and drop what appeared to be a firearm in the driveway. The witness said the gunman appeared to be wearing military-style clothing.
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. Moments before the shooting, the gunman played several songs including a traditional marching song of the British military called "The British Grenadiers", 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. One witness said the gunman continued to play "military music" from a portable speaker during the attack inside the mosque. Just before the shooting, the gunman appeared to be greeted by one of the worshippers, who said "Hello, brother" and who was amongst the first people to be killed.
The gunman spent several minutes inside the mosque, shooting attendees indiscriminately. He killed three people near the entrance, and many others inside a larger room. During the attack, a worshipper, Mian Naeem Rashid, charged at the gunman but was shot, and later died in hospital. 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 left the scene shortly thereafter in his car. He spent about six minutes at the Al Noor Mosque. The gunman shot other civilians in the area and drove away at high speed, heading in the direction of the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Linwood Islamic Centre
A second series of shootings began at about 1:55 pm at the Linwood Islamic Centre, a mosque 5 kilometres (3 mi) east of the Al Noor Mosque. Seven people were killed. According to a survivor, the gunman initially did not find the door to the mosque and shot people outside and through a window, which alerted those inside.
The mosque's acting imam credited a worshipper named Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah with stopping the attack. Wahabzadah told reporters he had taken a credit card reader and ran at the gunman hoping to distract him. When the gunman retreated, Wahabzadah threw the credit card reader 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 the windscreen. The gunman then drove away.
Early reports indicated "a multiple, simultaneous attack", but later only a single suspect was implicated. He was arrested 21 minutes after the first emergency call, on Brougham Street (SH 76) in Sydenham. Mobile phone footage showed his car had been rammed against the kerb by a police car before his arrest at gunpoint. Prime Minister Ardern said the suspect had been planning to continue the attack at a third location, possibly the mosque in Ashburton or the An-Nur Child Care Centre in Hornby; Police Commissioner Mike Bush corroborated this, saying police had stopped the suspect on his way to a third location.
The attack killed 50 people: 42 at the Al Noor Mosque, seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre, and one who died in Christchurch Hospital. The ages of those killed ranged from 3 to 77. In his update of 17 March, Commissioner Bush said 50 other people had been injured; 36 were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, two of whom were in a serious condition. One child was at Starship children's hospital in Auckland. National futsal player and IT entrepreneur Atta Elayyan was among those killed. Because of the number of victims, the Christchurch police had been slow in affirming the identification of the victims; as of 20 March 2019, only about 30 of the 50 victims were positively identified and their bodies released to their families.
In the day following the attacks, dozens of people remained missing and several diplomatic offices and foreign ministries released statements concerning the number of victims from their nations. The police requested missing people, or those listed as missing, to register themselves online as safe on the Restoring Family Links website, managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A list of missing people has been published by New Zealand Red Cross, and includes nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The New Zealand Police have charged Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, with murder in connection with the attack. At the time of the attack his place of residence was Andersons Bay in Dunedin. He was a member of a South Otago gun club and practised shooting at its range. He grew up in Grafton, New South Wales and attended Grafton High School, and later worked as a personal trainer in his hometown, from 2009 to 2011. Around 2012, he started visiting many countries in Asia and Europe. Police in Bulgaria and Turkey are investigating his visits to their nations. 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.
Security officials suspect he had come into contact with far-right organisations about two years before the shooting, while visiting European nations. Captivated with sites of battle between Christians 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. On social media, he posted a slew of Balkan nationalist material, 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 Kosovar Albanians. The shooter was against NATO's intervention as he saw the Serbian military as "Christian Europeans attempting to remove these Islamic occupiers from Europe".
Three years prior to the attack, he praised Blair Cottrell as a leader of the far-right movements in Australia. He made more than 30 comments on the now deleted United Patriots Front and True Blue Crew Facebook pages, some celebrating US President Donald Trump's election victory in 2016. Although his manifesto claims he was never a member of any group, the ABC investigation revealed he "was deeply engaged in a global alt-right culture" and showed allegiance to a number of Australian far-right figures.
According to Commissioner Bush, the gunman held an "A category" firearms licence. Police recovered five guns at the scene: two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm. According to a city gun store, the gunman bought them online. Additionally, he illegally replaced the semi-automatic rifles' small, legal magazines with 30 round magazines, also bought (legally) online. 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.[note 1]
Tarrant allegedly recorded his beliefs in a 73-page manifesto titled "The Great Replacement", a reference to the Great Replacement and white genocide conspiracy theories. It said the attack was planned two years earlier and the Christchurch location was chosen three months earlier. Nine minutes before the attacks, the manifesto was emailed to over 30 recipients, including the Prime Minister's office and several media outlets. Links to the manifesto were also shared on Twitter and 8chan immediately before the attack.
Within 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. The author also describes himself as an ethno-nationalist. In the manifesto, the author names dozens of people from around the world, ranging from politicians whose ideas he supports to terrorists and murderers whose actions he applauds. In particular he cites Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik as an inspiration and said he had been in "brief contact" with Breivik. He also calls for the assassination of several politicians he disagrees with.[note 2]
The manifesto displays neo-Nazi symbols such as the Black Sun and the Odin's cross. However, the author denies being a Nazi, and professes instead to be an "eco-fascist" and a "kebab removalist", in reference to a meme exalting the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb army. His document said 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". In the manifesto, he mentions Pope Urban II regarding a Crusade against "the impious race of the Saracens [Muslims]", and also calls for the Christian reconquest of Constantinople (Turkey's Istanbul). His manifesto contained many explicit references to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. His reasons for carrying out the mass shootings included his intent to "drive a wedge between the nations of NATO that are European and the Turks that also make a part of the NATO".
Hailed as an 'accelerationist' by members of 8chan, Tarrant claimed in the manifesto that the main goal of his attack was to accelerate anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant sentiment across majority white nations in order to fight against growing numbers of "invaders" and ignite an eventual 'race war'.
On March 23, 2019, it was reported that the manifesto had been banned in New Zealand, making it unlawful to possess or distribute it.
Tarrant appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday 16 March, where he was charged with murder and remanded in custody. At this first appearance he smiled at the media and made an inverted "OK" gesture. The duty lawyer who represented him later said that he was no longer acting for him, as Tarrant wanted to represent himself. The case was transferred to the High Court, with his next appearance scheduled for 5 April.
Emergency services response
Commissioner Bush said police were at the first scene within minutes of the incident being reported at 1:42 pm. In response to criticism that police were too slow to react to the attacks, District Commander John Price defended the 21 minutes it took them to arrest the suspect: "That is an incredibly fast response time. You had a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city."
St. John Ambulance sent 20 ambulances and other vehicles to the mosques. Most of the wounded were taken to Christchurch Hospital. Forty-eight people with gunshot wounds, including young children, were treated at the hospital, with some taken to other hospitals within Christchurch and nationally. Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan. Paramedics describe a 'river of blood' coming out of the mosque and having to step over bodies to collect the wounded.
Police advised all mosques in the country to close until further notice and sent officers to secure various sites in Christchurch. 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. Security was increased at Parliament in Wellington, including the cancellation of public tours. In Dunedin, the Armed Offenders Squad searched a house and cordoned off part of the surrounding street in Andersons Bay after the attacker indicated on social media that he had originally planned to target the city's Al Huda Mosque.
On the day of the attacks, police arrested four people. Two days later, Commissioner Bush said three arrested people did not appear to be involved. Police arrested a woman and a man after finding a firearm in a vehicle in which they were travelling together. The woman was released uncharged, but the man was held in custody, and was charged with a firearms offence. An 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with inciting racial disharmony under the Human Rights Act, and was due to appear in court on 18 March.
Additionally, a 30-year-old man claimed he was arrested when he arrived (unarmed) at Papanui High School to pick up his 13-year-old brother-in-law. He was wearing camouflage clothing, which he said he habitually wore. He also said police gave him a verbal warning for disorderly behaviour.
A meeting of the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination was convened to coordinate the government response. Prime Minister Ardern, who had just left a school climate-strike rally in New Plymouth, returned with Minister for Security and Intelligence Andrew Little to her hotel to give a press statement. Ardern cancelled all public engagements scheduled for that day, including opening the WOMAD international arts festival. She then boarded a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane to fly to Wellington to join official meetings taking place at the Beehive.
For the first time in New Zealand history, the terrorism threat level was raised to high. Ardern issued a directive that flags on "all Government and public buildings" should be flown at half-mast until further notice. Additionally, she has vowed never to speak the suspect's name, in an effort to prevent him gaining notoriety.
Within an hour of the attacks, all schools in the city were placed in "lockdown". Schoolchildren in lockdown still had their cellphones and some were able to view the video footage of the attack on social media. 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. The University of Otago postponed its 150th anniversary street parade, which was scheduled for 16 March, in response to security concerns.
The third test cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh, scheduled to commence at Hagley Oval in Hagley Park on 16 March, was cancelled because of security concerns. The Bangladesh team were planning to attend the Al Noor Mosque and were moments from entering the building when the incident began. The players then fled on foot to Hagley Oval. Two days later, Canterbury withdrew from their match against Wellington in the Plunket Shield cricket tournament. 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". After the attack, there were renewed calls to rename the Crusaders team, which derives from the medieval Crusades against Muslims.
Two concerts scheduled to be held in Christchurch on 17 March, one by singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, the other by thrash-metal band Slayer, were also cancelled. The Polynesian cultural festival Polyfest was cancelled after the shootings, with security concerns cited as the reason. 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.
An online fundraiser started to support victims and their families has, as of 20 March 2019,[ref] raised over NZ$6.7 million. Together with other fundraisers, a total of $8.4 million was raised for the victims and their families, as of 20 March 2019[update]. 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, which offers compensation for lost income and a $10,000 funeral grant, among other benefits.
The mosques involved in the attacks, and others around the country and the world, have become the focus of vigils, messages, and floral tributes. The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, encouraged people to lay flowers outside the city's Botanic Gardens. As a mark of sympathy and solidarity, school pupils and other groups performed haka and waiata to honour those killed in the attacks. 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. One week after the attacks an open-air Friday prayer service, attended by 20,000 people including Prime Minister Ardern and broadcast nationally, was held in Hagley Park. Ardern said "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one." The mozque's imam thanked New Zealanders for their support and added, "We are broken-hearted but we are not broken."
The live stream was re-posted on many video streaming services including LiveLeak and YouTube. Police, Muslim-advocacy groups and government agencies urged anyone who finds the footage to take it down or report it. 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.:124 An 18-year-old man 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 with the message "target acquired", as well as other chat messages "inciting extreme violence".
Several 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 the New Zealand Police not to show it. 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. At least three Internet service providers in New Zealand blocked access to 8chan and other sites related to the attack, 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. The administrator of Kiwi Farms publicly refused a request from a New Zealand detective for user data regarding posts about the attacks.
Social-media sites including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Twitter said they were working diligently to remove the video of the attack from their platforms and would also remove anything posted in support of the attacks. According to Facebook, no complaints were made about the video until twelve minutes after it ended, and the original video from the attacker had been viewed fewer than 200 times before the service was notified of its content, and had been viewed 4,000 times before it was removed. Removal occurred within minutes of notification, with Facebook creating a digital hash fingerprint to detect further uploads; however by this point the video had been propagated on other sites. Facebook said it had blocked 1.5 million uploads of the video and images in the day after the attack, including edited versions, from their service, with most blocked through the hash fingerprint to prevent visibility. Reddit banned "subreddits" named "WatchPeopleDie" and "Gore", saying threads there had glorified the attacks, in violation of user agreements. Despite this response, New Zealand officials as well as other world leaders have asked Facebook, YouTube, and other major social sites to take responsibility for extremist content posted on their services.
Stuart Bender, a research fellow at Curtin University in Perth, noted that the use of live streaming video as an integral part of the attack "makes the attack 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."
Just before carrying out the attack, the gunman said for the live stream camera, "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie", a meme referring to the popular Swedish YouTube personality Felix Kjellberg who goes by the alias PewDiePie. Invoking the meme was apparently intended as a means of spreading the news about the attacks to the tens of millions of followers of the channel, a continuation of same intent as the "shitposting" of the manifesto. In reaction, many of those who have popularised the meme called for its use to be discontinued. Kjellberg posted on Twitter, "I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person," and gave his condolences to those affected.
Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an "act of extreme and unprecedented violence" on "one of New Zealand's darkest days." She described it as a well-planned terrorist attack. She said she would render the person accused of the attack "nameless" and urged the public to speak the victims' names instead. Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, said she was "deeply saddened" by the attack.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, announced that Pakistani emigrant Mian Naeem Rashid, who confronted the gunman and was killed in the attack on the Al Noor mosque, would be posthumously honoured with a national award for his courage.
The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, repeatedly showed video taken by the attacker to his supporters at campaign rallies for upcoming[update] local elections. The New Zealand and Australian governments, as well as Turkey's main opposition party, have criticised his actions.
The gunman said in his manifesto that he supported the President of the United States, Donald Trump, as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose", but did not support his leadership and policies. When 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."
New Zealand-based white-supremacist groups were quick to condemn the attack and distance themselves from the perpetrator. However a number of alt-right leaders overseas and online posters supported the attack, hailing the gunman as a "hero".
Gun laws in New Zealand came under scrutiny in the aftermath, specifically the legality of military-style semi-automatic rifles compared to Australia, which banned them after the Port Arthur massacre, in 1996. As Philip Alpers of gun-policy website 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."
Prime Minister Ardern announced: "Our gun laws will change, now is the time ... People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that." 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." Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns, 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. Ardern, at a press conference on 18 March, said details of the proposed reforms would be given by 25 March. Ardern announced a ban on 21 March, 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 needing 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 "buy-back" scheme is also being considered.
The day after the attack, some gun-store owners reported an increase in sales, particularly of semi-automatic weapons, in response to the prospect of stricter laws, but David Tipple, owner of the Gun City chain of stores, said, "There's been a lot of talk about panic buying and it's a lie." Some New Zealand gun owners responded to the attack by voluntarily handing in their weapons to the police. The New Zealand auction website Trade Me has since banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons on its platform. In 2018, it was reported that of the 1.5 million registered firearms in New Zealand, 15,000 were semi-automatic weapons. Despite this number and despite police appeals,[POV? ] the Cabinet is still undecided on a gun register.
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