It would have been like any other Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand where the Muslim-minority in the local community would make their way to their neighbourhood mosques to fulfill their Friday prayers. Except on the Friday of 15 March 2019, at least 50 people were killed by an Australian white-supremacist.
All of a sudden the country, which has always been hailed for being one of the most peaceful, was making headlines for one of the world’s deadliest mass shootings to date.
The attacks happened at two mosques located within a 2-kilometre radius of each other, Masjid al-Noor and Lindwood Masjid. The attacker, Brenton Tarrant was apprehended by the police 39 minutes after the first 911 call was made after his car crashed on Strickland Street. He was allegedly making his way to another location to continue his attack.
According to a CNN infographic, the incident unfolded from 1.30pm when Tarrant had sent an 87-page manifesto to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explaining what he was going to do and why he was doing it. The manifesto, which went viral on social media, was written as though the incident had already happened.
The link to the manifesto was also posted on Twitter and 8chan, an online messaging board used by anonymous accounts to share extremist messages and even to cheer on mass shooters. Posted in Tarrant’s name, the links which led to the unsigned manifesto spoke about the 28-year-old author who was a white man born in Australia. Horrifyingly, it was also filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments.
At exactly 1.37pm that afternoon Tarrant drove by the mosque on Dean Avenue and then at 1.39pm began to open fire at the lawn outside the mosque. He then proceeded into the mosque and continued his attack.
During the attack at the first location, which lasted just over six minutes, Tarrant killed over 40 people with military grade arms. Following this, he shot several people walking on the street. The whole attack was streamed live on his Facebook account and spread like wildfire, leaving both Facebook and local authorities baffled.
Shortly after the livestream ended, a second attack took place at Linwood mosque. At least seven people were killed there and another died later at the hospital. A number of weapons were recovered at both locations. Ardern said that improvised explosive devices were also found at the scene. Apart from the dead, over 50 people were severely injured as a result of the attack, with some succumbing to their injuries later in hospital, making the death count 50.
Other than Tarrant, three other suspects have been taken into custody. Their identities have not been disclosed. As for Tarrant, he has been brought to court and charged with murder. He is to reappear in court in April.
What about gun laws?
An incident like this naturally drew criticism to New Zealand’s gun laws, which led to Ardern making a promise that they would be would be changed and better regulated. As a result, on Monday it was announced that the country would be regulating all military-style semi automatic firearms.
Though the move was commendable, many still criticised the fact that New Zealand’s weapons legislation is still considered more relaxed than most countries.
According to Stuff.co.nz as well as several other new sources, New Zealanders decided to take things in their own hands, with many returning their guns and giving up their gun licences. News.com reported that this was one way for New Zealanders to send a message to terrorists that the community remained united and would go out of their way to ensure such incidents would never again happen in the country.