The deadly mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayers has horrified residents of the South Pacific nation known for its low levels of gun violence and a reputation for tolerance and safety.
Forty-nine people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding it marked one of New Zealand’s darkest days.
“Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand.
“They may even be refugees here.
“They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home,” she said.
Online discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, carried an anonymous post that linked to the gunman’s online live footage of the attack on one of the two mosques and a “manifesto” denouncing immigration.
The manifesto said New Zealand was not originally chosen for the attack but was identified as a “target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the West”.
An attack in New Zealand would show “that nowhere in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was nowhere left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration,” the manifesto read.
Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the manifesto.
Paul Buchanan, a former intelligence and defence policy analyst now with consultancy 36th Parallel Assessments, said the threat from neo-Nazi groups in New Zealand was well-known.
“Christchurch has a very active white supremacist community, a community that has attacked refugees and people of colour on multiple occasions over the last 20 years,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“It shows we don’t live in a benign environment in this day and age, we’ve been infected with the virus of extremism.
“The thing is it came from white supremacists, not from the Islamic community that was the target today.”
Muslims account for just over 1 per cent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed, with more than three-quarters born overseas.