Shooting rampages at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand murdered 49 people on March 15. The coordinated attacks give every indication of being acts of far-Right terrorism.
The attack began just after 1:30 PM local time, at Al-Nur Mosque on Deans Avenue, near Hagley Park. The shooter, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen, had posted his intentions on a forum, along with a link to a livestream from his headcam.
The seventeen-minute video shows Tarrant taking a gun out of the boot of his car, walking towards Al-Nur Mosque, and beginning to shoot as he reaches the doorway. Tarrant then walks through the building firing at anything that moves, before circling around and shooting the wounded. 41 people were slaughtered.
The video footage taken during the attack on Al-Nur Mosque has been widely circulated, despite efforts by social media companies to suppress it. Tarrant’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts were all removed soon after the attacks began.
The second mosque to be attacked was on Linwood Avenue, where eight people were murdered; seven died at the scene and one later in hospital. An unspecified “number” of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also found under the killer’s car nearby and defused.
45 people were treated for gunshot wounds at local hospitals.
Tarrant was soon arrested, as were three other people—two men and one woman. It transpired that one of the arrests was unrelated to the attack and they were soon released. Further explosive devices were found in the car of one of the additional suspects who have been arrested. It appears that Tarrant was the sole active shooter in these attacks, but these conspirators provided various forms of support to his atrocities. True “lone wolves” are very rare.
The Bangladeshi cricket team, in New Zealand for a test match, had been on a bus headed to Al-Nur Mosque during Tarrant’s shooting spree. They were returned to their hotel, safe if shaken. The match, scheduled for March 16, has been called off, and the team has been confined to their hotel until they can get home.
Tarrant had not appeared on any terrorism watchlists before this attack. It seems likely, however, that this is an act of terrorism. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared it to be one. “It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Ardern said. “The person who has committed this act against us is not [one of us]. They have no place in New Zealand.” And Tarrant left a 70-plus-page “manifesto” that points to a political motive for the killings.
In his rambling tract, “The Great Replacement”, Tarrant identifies himself as an “eco-fascist” and a racist “by definition”. His primary concern is that “invaders”—immigrants, especially Muslims—are culturally and racially replacing native populations in the West. He refers to white converts to Islam as “blood traitors”. He claims that his main motivation was “anti-Islamic”.
There has been a rise in far-Right terrorism across the West over the past year, with “anti-Muslim beliefs” being a key motivator, even as there has been a decline in the number of Islamist terror attacks, primarily as a result of reductions in Islamic State activity.