Ter­ror­ist mas­sacres dozens at mosques

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA

The wounded tried to crawl away or lie still, while oth­ers ran or crouched be­hind the dead, but the gun­man kept pulling the trig­ger.

He shot flee­ing women and girls, and pumped bul­let af­ter bul­let into piles of mo­tion­less men and boys in a house of wor­ship.

The man ac­cused of car­ry­ing out the worst mass mur­der in New Zea­land’s mod­ern his­tory, one that left 49 peo­ple dead and more than 40 oth­ers wounded at two mosques in Christchurch, was iden­ti­fied in court doc­u­ments on Satur­day as Bren­ton Har­ri­son Tar­rant, 28. The sus­pect, who of­fi­cials said is an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen, was charged with one count of mur­der, and more were ex­pected to come.

It re­mained un­clear whether there was just one gun­man. Three other peo­ple were de­tained by the po­lice, but one was re­leased hours later.

The hor­ror was de­signed specif­i­cally for an era that has mar­ried so­cial me­dia and racism – a mas­sacre ap­parently mo­ti­vated by white ex­trem­ist ha­tred, streamed live on Face­book and cal­cu­lated to go vi­ral.

The shoot­ing rep­re­sented a stag­ger­ing cor­rup­tion of a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, used in­no­cently by mil­lions, that promised to draw peo­ple to­gether but has also helped pry them apart into war­ring camps. It also shat­tered a

ve­neer of ci­vil­ity and se­cu­rity in one of the safest and most highly de­vel­oped coun­tries in the world.

A man at the door to the Al Noor mosque on Deans Av­enue called out “hello, brother,” just be­fore the ap­proach­ing killer opened fire with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle. Sec­onds later, a wounded man, try­ing to crawl away, was shot again at point-blank range.

Within mo­ments, ter­ror and chaos gripped the peo­ple gath­ered at the mosque for Fri­day prayers, as they ran, screamed and tried to climb the walls around the build­ing. Par­ents tried to shield their chil­dren, oth­ers ducked be­hind or un­der parked cars, and at least one nearby res­i­dent opened her home to shel­ter peo­ple flee­ing the may­hem.

The Face­book video, shot from the killer’s hel­met-mounted cam­era, and a 74-page state­ment that the au­thor­i­ties said was writ­ten by the gun­man, point to an ar­ray of pos­si­ble role mod­els, from racist mass mur­der­ers to Oswald Mosley, the 20th­cen­tury British fas­cist.

Stan­dard white su­prem­a­cist and far-right na­tion­al­ist tropes, like fears of a “white geno­cide,” are sprin­kled through­out the state­ment. There are also el­e­ments of a self-flat­ter­ing reach for larger mean­ing: ref­er­ences to cen­turies-ago bat­tles be­tween Chris­tians and Mus­lims are scrawled on his guns, and on the video he refers to his slaugh­ter of un­armed peo­ple as “the fire­fight.”

But the po­ten­tial clues in the state­ment ap­peared to be as much an ex­er­cise in mis­di­rec­tion, provo­ca­tion and “trolling” as a state­ment of any ide­ol­ogy, mak­ing it hard to sep­a­rate be­lief from in­side jokes among ex­trem­ists, de­lib­er­ate bait­ing and point­less hate.

New safe­guards de­vel­oped by tech com­pa­nies over the last 18 months were not enough to stop the video and state­ment from be­ing widely posted, on Face­book, YouTube, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram. While Face­book and Twit­ter took down pages thought to be linked to the gun­man, the posted con­tent was spread rapidly through other ac­counts. Some peo­ple ap­peared to be us­ing tech­niques to evade au­to­mated sys­tems that find and delete con­tent.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day de­scribed the at­tack as “a hor­ri­ble dis­grace­ful thing, hor­ri­ble act.” But when asked whether he saw white na­tion­al­ism as a ris­ing threat around the world, he said: “I don’t re­ally. I think it’s a small group of peo­ple that have very, very se­ri­ous prob­lems, I guess.”

Many Western lead­ers de­nounced the at­tack as an act of ter­ror­ism, and made a point of stat­ing their sup­port for Mus­lims.

“Through ter­ror at­tacks that have taken place on U.K. soil we know only too well the pain that such hor­ri­fy­ing at­tacks can cause,” Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May of Bri­tain said. “As New Zea­land has stood by us so we stand shoul­der to shoul­der with them, and with Mus­lims in New Zea­land, here in the U.K. and around the world.”

Some lead­ers of Mus­lim coun­tries had a more pointed take. On Twit­ter, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan of Turkey called the at­tack “the lat­est ex­am­ple of ris­ing racism and Is­lam­o­pho­bia.”

MARK BAKER AP

Peo­ple wait out­side a mosque in cen­tral Christchurch, New Zea­land, Fri­day, af­ter one of two deadly at­tacks.

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