At least 49 people died and dozens were injured when a gunman with white nationalist views opened fire at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. The attack, which was live-streamed on Facebook, happened during Jumu’ah, one of the holiest and most concurred congregational prayers. A second mosque in the area was also targeted.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called the shooting a terrorist attack. "This is one of New Zealand's darkest days," she said. "There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence."
Authorities said three people are in custody in connection to the attack. A 28-year-old man was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday. Police have not yet released the names of the suspects. They also said officers had disarmed an improvised explosive device (IED), and were on the process of disarming a second device attached to the suspects' vehicle.
The alleged shooter left a 74-page manifesto in which he spoke at length about his white nationalist views, including his hatred for Muslims and immigrants. The man said he drew inspiration from shooters like Dylann Roof, who in 2015 murdered nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina, and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who murdered 77 people, including children, in a 2011 attack. Breivik has often been a role model for white nationalists: Last month, an U.S. Coast Guard officer who planned a large scale domestic attack on several prominent lawmakers and media figures cited the terrorist as an inspiration.
The gunman seems to be the latest shooter to be radicalised online. His manifesto notably included a fair amount of "shitposting" — the act of aggressively posting poor quality content to derail conversations in online forums — and also references to far-right, fringe memes. But it the repeated references to "white genocide," wanting the attack to "reduce immigration rates," and other white nationalist talking points illustrate that these seem to be his true beliefs. The shooter also made several references to the United States' Second Amendment rights and President Donald Trump, saying he supported him "as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no."
In response to the attack, Trump tweeted: "My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 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!"
An attack of this magnitude is pretty much unprecedented in New Zealand's modern history. The nation's violent crime rates are extremely low compared to the rest of the world. According to authorities, in 2017 there were only 35 murders in the country — a 40-year-low that translates to about seven deaths for every 1 million people.