March 15, 2019: Christchurch Mosque Shootings

On this day in 2019, Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant, carried out attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people.

The shootings at two mosques in Christchurch a year ago is a potent reminder that not all terrorism is jihadi in nature.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND — New Zealand is a wonderful land, one that I visited many times both as a multilingual analyst at CSE (Communications Security Establisment – Canada’s signals intelligence agency) and as a strategic terrorism analyst at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). I am lucky to count many friends amongst the ‘Kiwis’.

One thing that New Zealand is not, lucky them, is a country beset often with terrorism. In fact, I cannot name a single act of terrorism on NZ soil prior to the one I want to highlight today. There were probably foiled attacks thanks to the joint efforts of NZSIS and the national police but even there you would be hard pressed to come up with many examples.

On this day in 2019

On this day in 2019 New Zealand suffered a rare attack, one that was catastrophic in nature. A 28-year old Australian citizen, Brenton Tarrant, carried out attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people, including children. Tarrant, described by the Australian Prime Minister as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”, expressed admiration for other violent white nationalists and his intention to “create an atmosphere of fear” and to “incite violence” against Muslims.

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Tarrant livestreamed his attack using a GoPro camera and, despite efforts by social media companies to take the video down, it made its way across the Internet where losers like him praised the slaughter. To some, the perpetrator is known as ‘St. Brenton‘.

There are several aspects of this attack which bear noting:
  • It was a right-wing, white nationalist one that resulted in mass casualties: we have come to associate this kind of carnage with jihadis in the post-9/11 era;
  • Tarrant left a ‘manifesto’ in which he cited a 2017 attack in Stockholm where a Swedish girl was killed by an Uzbek jihadi as justification for his actions. This is what I call ‘tit for tat’ terrorism;
  • The reaction by NZ Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern was stellar but even she admitted in the run-up to the first anniversary that her country had been ‘fundamentally changed’.

This heinous act reminds us that it is not only Islamist extremists that are capable of bloodletting on a grand scale. Our protectors have a tough slog in monitoring all the jihadis and neo-Nazi types out there who kill and maim for sport.

And I wish all our law enforcement and security intelligence agencies well in their duty. They need our support and the resources to do their job to the best of their abilities.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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