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49 Dead After Mosque Shooting in New Zealand
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15 Mar 2019 12:11 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Police officer outside mosque shooting in New Zealand (Image source: Martin Hunter/SNPA via Reuters)

 

While we can be thankful that we haven't had a mass shooting here in the United States since the one in Aurora, Illinois, nearly a month ago, sadly that doesn't mean it isn't happening in the rest of the world. On Thursday there were at least 49 people killed in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

 

On Friday afternoon, in what has been referred to as a terrorist attack and "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence," a day of prayer was interrupted by gun violence, with part of it broadcast live on the Internet as the continuation of a white supremacist's manifesto. 

A gunman was wearing a camera as he attacked the Al Noor Mosque, and his footage was streamed to Facebook,documenting the horrific details of the attack. This has certainly raised questions on the culpability of social media platforms that allow such a thing to take place.

 

A 17-minute video was circulated widely after it had initially been streamed live to Facebook. It showed a man dressed in all black shooting a semiautomatic rifle at people who were fleeing the attack, as well as into a pile of bodies who had already been struck. 

Police report that a man in his late 20s was arrested and charged with murder, but they have declined to identify him. They also reported that they seized several weapons and found two explosive devices on a vehicle.

 

Along with the Al Noor Mosque, nearby Linwood Mosque was hit as well. Other mosques were urged by authorities to close, and Cathedral Square was cleared, schools were locked down, and residents were urged to stay indoors until it was determined whether the gunman acted alone. 

Mike Bush,New Zealand's police commissioner, said three other individuals with weapons were found near the scene and were also taken into custody. However, they determined later that one probably didn't have anything to do with the attacks.

 

Around 1:40 PM, the time that worshippers were involved in midday Friday prayer, the shootings at the two mosques were first reported. The manifesto was published online minutes earlier. 

Both mosques were named in the manifesto, with links to the document posted on Twitter and 8chan, a message board forum known to cater to extremist right-wing discussions. A link to what is possibly the gunman's Facebook page appeared in the 8chan post as well. He said he would soon be broadcasting live video of the attack.

 

"Christchurch was the home of these victims," who are most likely migrants or refugees, said Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister. "For many this may not have been the place they were born. For many, New Zealand was their choice, the place that they chose to come to and committed themselves to, the place they chose to raise their families." 

She believes her country was targeted "because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it."

 

The video filmed by the gunman from what appears to be a helmet camera, such as a GoPro, showed him driving to the mosque and then beginning to shoot before he even entered the building. He shot at people who were fleeing for nearly two minutes before he went back to his car to switch weapons. 

He reentered the mosque and began firing again, moving from room to room and shooting into the piles of bodies. He left again after a few minutes, reentered his car and drove away, stopping at times to fire at pedestrians while talking to himself.

 

"There wasn't even time to aim; there was so many targets," he said. 

"We quickly removed both the shooter's Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video," reported Mia Garlick, a Facebook representative, in a statement. "We're removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we're aware."

 

The manifesto's author identified himself as a 28-year-old man who was born in Australia. He listed white nationalist heroes, and described his hostility toward Muslims as well as immigrants, and said he chose to use guns in the attacks to stir trouble in the United States with regard to the Second Amendment. 

This is the first mass shooting in New Zealand since 1990 when a man killed two six-year-olds as well as 11 other people after a dispute with a neighbor. That led to a change in gun laws, including restrictions on "military-style semiautomatic weapons."

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