At least 49 worshippers were killed and 42 others injured in attacks on the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and the Linwood Mosque in the city's outer suburb.
The gunman at one mosque identified himself in his manifesto as an Australia-born, 28-year-old white male from a low-income, working-class family.
New Zealand authorities describe him as an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.
Online accounts linked to gun attacks had in recent days circulated white supremacist imagery and extreme right-wing messages celebrating violence against Muslims and minorities on social media and message boards.
On Tuesday, March 12, a Twitter handle @brentontarrant tweeted pictures of one of the guns believed to have been later used in the mosque attacks in the city of Christchurch.
Firearms with the neo-Nazi symbol 'Black Sun'
Other tweets from the same user on that day included references to declining white fertility rates, articles about right-wing extremists in various countries and stories about purported crimes by illegal immigrants.
The Twitter profile had 63 tweets and was created last month.
On Friday, a person took to 8chan, an online discussion site known for allowing virtually any content, to make a proclamation. The anonymous user told the group “I will carry out and attack against the invaders, and will even livestream the attack via Facebook.”
The post featured a link to a 74-page manifesto that said he was motivated by “white genocide,” a term white supremacists use to describe immigration and the growth of minority populations.
It also linked to a Facebook page for a user called brenton.tarrant.9, where the attack was livestreamed.
The @brentontarrant Twitter account was suspended not long after the shooting on Friday, as was the brenton.tarrant.9 Facebook page.
Archive of tweets by the account 'associated' with the gunman: https://archive.fo/aC2FQ
Reuters reports that when the attack began on Friday, one anonymous 8chan user remarked: “actually happening." Comments started pouring in. One user said “this sounds fun.”, while another remarked “Nice shootin Tex.”
'17 minutes of terror': Livestreaming the assault
The New Zealand government said it could be illegal to share the video, which showed the gunman repeatedly shooting at worshippers from close range.
But the video was readily available for hours even after the attack as tech and media companies strived to contain it.
The gunman filmed and shared the attacks using a mobile phone app called LIVE4, which allows users to broadcast directly to Facebook from personal body cameras, according to the app’s developer and a Reuters review of videos available online.
The car in which the perp arrived at the scene is filled with additional ammunitions
The live footage of Friday’s attacks was first posted to Facebook and has since been shared on Twitter, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube and Facebook-owned Whatsapp and Instagram.
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 Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch.
In the video, the shooter makes a 5-minute drive to the place of his assault. He then says, "Alright, time's up' and begins to shoot at the ground as he gets out of the vehicle. He parks his vehicle and slowly goes to the boot of his car to retrieve another firearm.
A Serbian anthem popularised by alt-right YouTubers called “Remove Kebab” can be heard being played on in the car. Alluding to the purge of Bosnian Muslims, the song is a glorification of Serbian fighters and Bosnian Serb Radovan Karadzic, who is jailed for genocide and other war crimes. Before the act, the gunman makes a number of meme references, including “subscribe to PewDiePie”.
UPDATE: PewDiePie Responds
Hours later, PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, a 29-year-old YouTuber and comedian with 89 million subscribers, tweeted
The video continues as the gunman enters the building and fires repeatedly at worshippers as he moves from room to room. The livestream ends 17 minutes later.
He 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.
In the short video, which did not appear to be the full clip, he can be seen changing cartridges three times in just under two minutes.
The New Zealand shooter inside his car
His guns and ammo magazines are covered in the names of his 'idols' and victims of terror attacks in the West.
Scrawled in English and several Eastern European languages were the names of numerous historical military figures references to the Ottoman forces, the Crusades and the phrase: “Here’s Your Migration Compact, ” - a reference to the Global Compact for Migration signed by the UN in December.
Read more: United Nations approved Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/12/1028941
The video continues as the gunman fires dozens of bullets at people trying to run away or lying down in huddled groups in corners of the rooms.
The gunman spoke only occasionally while in the car, with what sounded like an Australian accent. Navigational audio (Map directions) could also be heard in the video as he drove to the mosque.
The number “14” was written on the side of the rifle as well, a reference to the “fourteen words,” a white supremacist mantra. It is a slogan derived from a passage in Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf. It is also a frequently used meme by the alt-right. Most commonly known as: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
Ammo magazines etched with the names, places and events referencing -
- Luca Traini - an Italian extremist who targeted black migrants, injuring 6 in February 2018.
- Sebastiano Venier - Doge of Venice who fought against the Turks during the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War
- Battle of Shipka Pass in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878)
- Novak Vujosevic fought in the Battle of Fundina against the Ottoman Empire (Source: Wikipedia)
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 entire sequence lead observers on Twitter to draw comparisons to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 “No Russian” mission.
A still from the livestream as the gunman prepares to enter the mosque
'I am the god of hellfire!'
When the gunman returns to his car — the song "Fire" by the English rock band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown can be heard. The singer bellows, 'I am the god of hellfire!', as the Australian drives away, the Daily Mail said .
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.
However copies of livestream of the incident quickly spread to various video archival websites like Mega.nz, AnonFile, and Zippyshare.
"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.
UPDATE: Reddit ban
Internet discussion board Reddit has banned r/watchpeopledie. The ban comes after the subreddit re-hosted videos of the mosque massacres. According to the new landing page, the subreddit (infamous for hosting videos of people dying gruesomely) was banned for violating Reddit’s content policy about glorifying or encouraging violence.
While the gunman's manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.
The "manifesto" detailing motivations for the attack was posted on Friday morning onto a Twitter account with the same name and profile image as the Facebook page that streamed the attack.
What is the "The Great Replacement"
In the 74-page manifesto entitled "The Great Replacement", the gunman details his intention to attack Muslims.
The title of the document has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that believes European populations are being displaced in their homelands by immigrant groups with higher birth rates.
A simple Google search shows the document readily available on the internet
The shooter, who identifies as an “eco-fascist,” writes that he believes in “ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on the preservation of nature, and the natural order.”
Throughout the manifesto, the theme he returns to most often is conflict between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades.
He wrote that the episode that pushed him toward violence took place in 2017 while he was touring through Western Europe. That was when an Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five.
He said that key point in his radicalisation was the defeat of the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in 2017 elections. The Australian was particularly enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl Ebba Akerlund in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.
He said his desire for violence grew when he arrived in France, where he became enraged by the sight of immigrants in the cities and towns he visited.
And so he began to plot his attack. Three months ago, he started planning to target Christchurch. He claimed not to be a direct member of any organization or group, though he said he has donated to many nationalist groups.
He believed US President Donald Trump to be as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but not as a “policy maker and leader.” “Dear god no,” he writes.
He also claimed he contacted an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and got the blessing of Anders Breivik for the attack.
Breivik is a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011. Breivik's lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway's VG newspaper that his client, who is in prison, has "very limited contacts with the surrounding world, so it seems very unlikely that he has had contact" with the New Zealand gunman.
Christchurch mosque gunman Brenton Tarrant worked as a personal trainer at Big River gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton
A woman who said she was a colleague of his at the workplace said she was shocked by the allegations against him.
"I can't ... believe that somebody I've probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme," Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Page 2: Introduction to the gunman's manifesto
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday confirmed the attacker at the Masjid al Noor mosque was an Australian.
"We stand here and condemn, absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist," Morrison said.
New Zealand authorities said that four people had been arrested, but their identities were not made public. They later announced one man, aged in his late 20s, had been charged with murder and would appear in court on Saturday.
At the time of writing this story, multiple social media accounts with the name Brenton Tarrant had cropped up.