New Zealand mosque attacks suspect praised Trump in manifesto
Suspected gunman behind the Christchurch rampage dubbed the US president ‘a symbol of renewed white identity’.
The Australian-born suspect who shot and killed dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, has published a manifesto praising US President Donald Trump and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011.
The 74-page dossier, which has been described by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a “work of hate”, hailed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.
The 28-year-old, who is now in police custody, also claimed that he had “brief contact” with Breivik and had received a “blessing” for his actions from the mass murderer’s acquaintances.
The dossier stated objections to immigration and multiculturalism and decries the “decaying” culture of the white, European, Western world.
Earlier on Friday, at least 49 people were killed and 20 others seriously wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in the worst attack in the Pacific Island country’s modern history.
The majority of the victims were shot at the Al Noor mosque, while the rest were killed at another mosque in suburban Linwood.
The Muslim worshippers had congregated for Friday prayers, Islam’s holy day of the week.
Trump, whose rhetoric is sometimes aligned with the far-right in the United States, condemned the “horrible massacre” in a post on Twitter.
“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 US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do,” he wrote.
Moments before, his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” she added.
Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, described the shootings as a “well-planned terrorist attack”, and said this is one of the country’s “darkest days”.
In addition to the Australian-born man, three other suspects, including a woman, have been arrested, according to Mike Bush, New Zealand’s police commissioner.
The main suspect also livestreamed his rampage on social media.
The New Zealand government said it could be illegal to share the video, which showed the gunman repeatedly shooting at worshippers from close range.
The Facebook Live video, taken with a camera that appeared to be mounted on the gunman’s body, shows a clean-shaven, Caucasian man with short hair driving to the Al Noor mosque.
He enters the building and fires repeatedly at worshippers as he moves from room to room.
AFP determined the video was genuine through a digital investigation that included matching screenshots of the mosque taken from the gunman’s footage with images available online showing the same areas.
In the video, the attacker parks his car next to the mosque and gets out of the vehicle with a rifle. He slowly goes to the boot of his car and retrieves another firearm.
He then walks into the compound of the mosque and fires at a person standing near the doorway before dropping the rifle and shooting repeatedly with the second weapon as he moves inside.
The gunman fires dozens of bullets at people trying to run away or lying down in huddled groups in corners of the rooms.
The framing of the video, which shows only the gunman’s hands holding the gun as he shoots and reloads, is eerily similar to the style of a first-person shooter video game.
The Facebook account that posted the video was no longer available shortly after the shooting. The Twitter account of the same name was quickly suspended.
“Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” Facebook said in a tweet.
“We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware.”
A spokesman for New Zealand’s interior ministry said the video is likely to be classified as objectionable content under local law, and could be illegal to share.
“The content of the video is disturbing and will be harmful for people to see,” he said. “This is a very real tragedy with real victims and we strongly encourage people to not share or view the video.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, Australian Senator Fraser Anning published a statement where he blamed immigration and Muslims.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Anning said.
“The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism. And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.”
The Queensland senator’s comments were condemned by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who expressed his repulsion.
“The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning in blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting,” Morrison said on Twitter.
“Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”