In the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history, a right-wing gunman killed 41 people and wounded scores more in an attack against the Al Noor Mosque. A separate attack on the Linwood Mosque left seven people dead, bringing the total victim count to 48. The New Zealand police are still determining if the two attacks are connected. Both attacks took place in the city of Christchurch.
The gunman who attacked the first mosque live streamed his attack on Facebook and identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian. Both YouTube and Facebook have taken down the video.
The video begins with the shooter casually driving through Christchurch’s streets. In the background, military and nationalist songs can be heard. Some of the tunes are old-school British military marching songs and Serbian paramilitary anthems. The car is jam-packed with an assortment of weapons to include shotguns and assault rifles. The weapons are adorned with hate messages, such as references to the Crusades, Greek Revolution heroes, the Balkan Wars, and excerpts from Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” In the trunk, he has jerrycans, presumably filled with petrol, which he intended to use to burn down the mosque, as he claims during the last moments of the video.
Tarrant arrives at the mosque, parks in an alley, and gets out. He casually walks up to the mosque’s entrance, guns in hand. And then the six-minute mayhem begins. He proceeds down the main corridor, shooting anyone on sight, first with a shotgun.
He then transitions to an assault rifle as he enters the women’s and men’s prayer rooms. Initially, people inside are frozen by the attack. But they soon start to run, unfortunately toward the corners of the two rooms, thus assisting the gunman in his rampage. Only one man tries to tackle the gunman, but he is shot dead.
Tarrant has attached flashlights on his weapons, presumably to confuse his targets. For the next several minutes, he casually changes magazines and shoots people unopposed. It’s a massacre.
Tarrant then goes back to his car to rearm, shooting people in the parking lot as he does so. He re-enters the mosque and continues his odious work. The shooting goes on for a few more minutes before Tarrant goes to his car and drives on, presumably to the Linwood Mosque. (It’s unclear why he left given that the New Zealand police hadn’t yet arrived at the scene.) He stops to shoot something or someone from inside his car.
As he drives, he calmly gives an after-action report of his movements, discussing magazine changes and target acquisition. But he also says, “That didn’t go as planned,” presumably referring to his intent to burn down the mosque. Then the footage abruptly ends. Soon thereafter, Tarrant was arrested by New Zealand police officers.
The alley where he parked his car and his smooth movements within the mosque suggest that he had conducted extensive reconnaissance of the place and its surroundings prior to the shooting. Furthermore, his manifesto resembles that of Anders Breivik, a right-wing Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a press conference that “it is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack. What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities. New Zealand is their home—they are us.”
Correction: this article has been corrected to accurately state the number of fatalities at the Linwood Mosque.