The Australian suspect who shot dead dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, is believed to have been inspired by historical figures who fought against Muslims, among others, as well as a convicted Serb war criminal responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995.
In photographs from a now-deleted Twitter account associated with the 28-year-old suspect that match the weaponry seen in his livestreamed video of the mass shooting on Friday, there were references – written in Cyrillic, Armenian and Georgian – to people famous for fighting against Muslims, according to screengrabs posted by other social media users.
Among the names seen on the weaponry were several Serb military figures, including Milos Obilic, a national hero in Serbian folklore who fought against the Ottomans, most notably in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo when he killed the Ottoman Sultan Murad I.
Military leaders who led uprisings against the Ottoman Empire such as Marko Miljanov Popovic, Novak Vujosevic and Bajo Pivljanin, praised in Serbian epic poetry, were also marked on the assault rifle.
Prior to the shooting, a video on Twitter showed the gunman driving and playing a song honouring Radovan Karadzic, a convicted Bosnian Serb war criminal and first president of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian war in the early 1990s.
In 2016, United Nations judges sentenced Karadzic to 40 years in prison, ruling that he was guilty of war crimes including the genocide committed in Bosnia’s Srebrenica, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Serb forces.
The song played in the gunman’s car known as “God is a Serb and he will protect us” is from a propaganda music video produced by three Bosnian Serb soldiers, which warns “Turks” (Bosnian Muslims) that the Serbs were coming, led by Karadzic.
Over the years, the song has spawned a plethora of parody images and videos, evolving into a meme known as “Remove Kebab”, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing against Muslims.
The “Remove Kebab” video & accompanying memes have been shared millions of times over the last several yrs. The Bosnian Genocide has become major ideological pillar among, and model for new-age far-right extremists, like the Holocaust in previous generations of their ilk.
— Jasmin Mujanović (@JasminMuj) March 15, 2019
“Kebab removed” is written on the rifle, referring to the song.
“Turkofagos” (Turk-eater) was also inscribed on the assault rifle, a nickname widely used for Greek armed groups fighting against Ottoman Turkish forces.
Political scientist Jasmin Mujanovic commented on Twitter that the markings on the suspect’s rifle were “steeped in toxic, faux-historical narratives about ‘defending’ white Christendom”.
Inspired by Breivik
The 28-year-old, who is now in police custody, also claimed that he had “brief contact” with Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011.
In his 74-page manifesto published online just before the attacks on two mosques, the gunman wrote he took “true inspiration” from Breivik and had received a “blessing” for his actions from his acquaintances.
In his dossier, he wrote that the motive for his attack was to “create fear” and called for killings of Muslims.
He also included a section about the Kosovo conflict, according to Balkan Insight.
“Balkanisation will also reduce the USA’s ability to project power globally, and thereby ensure that never again can such a situation as the US involvement in Kosovo ever occur again (where US/NATO forces fought beside Muslims and slaughtered Christian Europeans attempting to remove there Islamic occupiers from Europe),” it read.
NATO had conducted air raids in Serbia in June 1999 to end Serbia’s military campaign against ethnic Albanian rebels in the province.
Similarly, Breivik had shown to be inspired by massacres of Muslims in the Balkans in his 1,500-page manifesto published prior to his mass shooting.
In his manifesto, Breivik called Karadzic an “honourable crusader”.
In court, Breivik reportedly explained that the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” regarding his radicalisation.
According to Balkan Insight, “Serb nationalists enjoy cult status among many far-right groups in Europe where they are admired for their militancy, extreme Islamophobia and – most importantly – for having put words into action in the 1990s, when Serb nationalist paramilitaries killed thousands of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.”