At least 50 people are dead and dozens more have been seriously wounded during multiple terror attacks today in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attacker used several long guns to target Muslims at two mosques and had what police described as explosive devices. One series of attacks was livestreamed on Facebook for 17 minutes. Three people have been arrested, according to the New Zealand Herald.
One of the terrorists has been identified as a 28-year-old originally from Grafton, Australia who released a manifesto filled with white supremacist hate, references to internet culture, and praise for President Donald Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity.” Facebook has deleted the terrorist’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act,” a Facebook executive for Australia and New Zealand, Mia Garlick, told the Guardian.
“New Zealand police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the live-stream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” Garlick continued. “We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware. We will continue working directly with New Zealand police as their response and investigation continues.”
TV news stations in Australia broadcast portions of the shooter’s video, but cut out shortly before the terrorist entered one of the mosques. Police in New Zealand had asked that the video not be shared.
The terrorist manifesto appears to be an attempt to troll the media and was posted to sites like Scribd before being taken down. One of the attackers can be heard saying “remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie” in the video shortly before one of the shootings, a reference to a popular YouTube personality who has previously received criticism for helping to spread white supremacist rhetoric. PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, tweeted his condolences saying that he was “absolutely sickened” by the attacks.
At least 41 people were killed at the Deans Avenue mosque and another seven died at the Linwood Avenue mosque in Christchurch, according to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who gave a press conference a few hours after the shootings began. Another twenty people were described as having “serious” injuries.
Every social media company is playing whack-a-mole right now with content that was created by the attackers. As the original video and manifesto get taken down on sites like Facebook and Scribd, they’re posted again to places like YouTube and Twitter.
“Our hearts are broken over today’s terrible tragedy in New Zealand. Please know we are working vigilantly to remove any violent footage,” YouTube tweeted.
One of the attacker’s Facebook pages was filled with links to white supremacist content, including a number of anti-immigrant videos on YouTube. The video-sharing site is owned by Google and has been a hub of extremism over the past few years, radicalizing young white men through a narrative that western countries are being “invaded” by foreigners, and specifically Muslims.
The title of the manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” a reference to white people being “replaced” by Muslims and other minorities in western countries, has been echoed repeatedly in mainstream news both in the U.S. and in Australia. Code words like “replace” are used by mainstream hate-peddlers like Tucker Carlson on Fox News, and the phrase “Jews will not replace us” was chanted at the infamous neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
A Reddit forum called WatchPeopleDie was repeatedly posting the video, before New Zealand Police requested that the video be taken down. Users on that forum cried “censorship” and were upset that their links were getting pulled.
White supremacist accounts on Twitter, a hotbed for neo-Nazi radicalization, were praising the shooting. One account, for example, tweeted, “Only another 1.8 billion to go.” Another particularly disgusting account tweeted, “New Zealand man prevents dozens of rapes with this one weird trick!”
Gizmodo was able to find multiple re-uploads of the full 17-minute video on YouTube hours after the attack. The video shows one of the shootings from the gunman’s perspective, recorded with a head-mounted camera in the style of a first-person shooter video game.
What sounds like polka music in a foreign language can be heard through the car’s speakers as the shooter drives around. Another song played in the car during the shootings has been described as “17th-century British military music” by the Sydney Morning Herald. The shooter appears to be talking with at least one other person in the back seat of the car.
The horrific video shows the shooter killing men, women, and children. Some people are crawling on the floor after first getting shot, and at least one man in a mosque is seen trying to fight back against the attacker by rushing him, but he’s killed as well. Some victims had huddled in a corner where the shooter repeatedly shoots into a mass of people.
“There wasn’t even time to aim, there were so many targets,” you can hear the terrorist say to his accomplice in the back seat as they’re driving around. [Update: This may have just been the shooter talking to his audience on the livestream. I honestly just don’t have the stomach to watch it again to confirm after seeing so many people die.]
President Trump’s only tweet so far about the incident has been a plug for Breitbart News without any kind of commentary denouncing the terrorist attacks.
[Update, 8:46 AM: President Trump has deleted his Breitbart tweet and tweeted that his “best wishes” go out to the people of New Zealand.]
Far right politicians in Australia placed the blame on Muslims rather than the white Australian terrorist who carried out the shooting.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program that allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Australian senator Fraser Anning tweeted after the attacks.
“Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” Anning said in another hateful tweet.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand sought to comfort a grieving nation and described the attacks as the worst in the country’s history.
“This is not who we are,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “This act was not a reflection of who we are as a nation. That is why so many New Zealanders, every New Zealander, I imagine, will be shocked by this today. Because this is not who we are.”
“This is something that all of us will utterly reject and of course it will take time to heal, and tonight our thoughts and prayers need to be with those affected.”
A crowdfunding campaign for the victims and families of the victims of today’s terrorist attacks has been set up by a New Zealand nonprofit called Victim Support. The website is in New Zealand dollars, which is currently at about $0.68 in American currency. That means, for example, that if you donate $20 NZ it will charge your credit card $13.68 in U.S. dollars.
Update, March 18: New Zealand police say a 50th victim was found at the Al Noor mosque, CNN reports. An additional 34 people remain hospitalized, and 12 are in critical condition as of Monday.