New Zealand terrorist attack ends in 49 dead and dozens more injured
A horrific mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand has claimed the lives of 49 people and injured dozens more in what’s being condemned as a terrorist attack on Friday afternoon.
According to The New York Times, part of the attack was broadcast live on Facebook after the shooter published a “white supremacist manifesto” online. New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern called it a terrorist attack and “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” The slaughter interrupted a day of prayer at the Al Noor Mosque in the center of the city and the Linwood Mosque about three miles east of it. The places of worship are located in a small immigrant community in a country where mass shootings happen very rarely.
First-person footage streamed online as the gunman wore a camera. Facebook was quick to shut down the attacker’s account but not before a 17-minute video of a man wearing black shooting worshipers as they tried to escape and sending bullets into piles of of bodies was able to spread. Those attacked included young children. Facebook rep Mia Garlick said in a statement, “We quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware.”
The attacker hasn’t been identified yet but is being described as a man in his late twenties. He’s been arrested and charged with murder. Police also seized weapons and two explosive devices on a vehicle.
At a news conference, Ardern said, “This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand,” she said.
New Zealand’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, says three other people at the scene who had weapons on them were taken into custody but investigators don’t believe they had anything to do with the attacks.
The shootings happened around mid-day Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosques. This was the time when they’d be busiest, according to reports. Just before the shooting began, the killer’s manifesto was posted online. It named both mosques and was shared on Twitter and 8chan, a forum known for its message boards full of right-wing extremists.
The last mass shooting in the country was back in 1990 when 13 people were killed after the shooter had a fight with his neighbor. The shooting resulted in tougher gun laws including restrictions on semiautomatic weapons. The process to get a gun in New Zealand involves obtaining a license after a lengthy review of the purchaser’s criminal background and mental health. It also includes a home visit to see how the gun will be stored and testimonials from friends and relatives.
In his manifesto, the killer refers to Swedish YouTube star Felix Kjellberg telling those watching to “subscribe to PewDiePie.” He’s been criticized before for skits some felt were anti-Semitic. Kjellberg tweeted that he felt “absolutely sickened” to be mentioned in the attacker’s writings, which also included mentions of white nationalists. The killer identified himself as a 28-year-old man from Australia.
He mentioned the United States in the manifesto saying he chose to use guns to cause an uproar over the Second Amendment. The video and Twitter posts he shared included weapons covered in the names of past mass shooters and military generals.
Ardern believes many victims were likely migrants to the country. “Christchurch was the home of these victims,” she said. “For many this may not have been the place they were born. For many, New Zealand was their choice, the place that they chose to come to and committed themselves to, the place they chose to raise their families.” She feels New Zealand was possibly chosen for the vile attack “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.”