Update: The death toll from the attack has now risen to 50. The original post quoted the death toll at 49. (3/17/2019)
Friday afternoon, around 1:40 pm, police in Christchurch, New Zealand responded to shootings at two mosques. As of right now, the death toll from the shootings is at 50, and there are many more people who were injured.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the shooting a well-planned “terrorist attack,” adding that it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the shooter as "an extremist right-wing violent terrorist."
The attacks were carried out at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, and a nearby mosque in Linwood, a Christchurch suburb.
Around 200 people were inside the Al Noor Mosque when the shooting began.
48 people died at the mosques, and another person died at the hospital.
"These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world," Prime Minister Ardern said.
A 28-year-old Australian man, some reports have given the name Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with murder. Three others were also detained, but authorities, it seems, are not sure that all three were involved.
Explosive devices were also found attached to vehicles nearby and were removed by authorities.
The suspect live-streamed video of the attack at one of the mosques. That video then spread across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, despite its extremely violent nature.
In addition to the video, authorities discovered that the suspect had also written a 74-page manifesto that he titled "The Great Replacement."
In his manifesto, the shooter laments "white genocide" and also engages in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim diatribes. It also mentions the start of a race war in the United States.
In the manifesto, the suspect mentions how he had planned this attack for two years, and moved from Australia to New Zealand in order to train for it. New Zealand was not his original target for the attack, but he admits that he chose it because of its image as one of the safest countries in the world.
Among the other things detailed in the manifesto, the shooter says he was inspired by Dylann Roof, who opened fire at a Charleston, SC church in 2015 and killed 9 African American members of the church. Anders Behring Breivik is also mentioned as providing inspiration. Breivik was the the far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.
Tarrant also says he is a supporter of President Donald Trump, who he described as a symbol of white identity, despite thinking Trump is a not a good leader or policymaker.
This story is still developing, and it is likely that some of the details outlined above may change as authorities are able to gain more information and release more of that information to the press.
In the meantime, as we wait to learn more, we can reflect on what would drive someone to do something as horrific as this, and how we can stand up to this kind of violence. I have never shied away from criticizing all religions, Islam included, but this kind of violence does nothing but destroy lives and exacerbate our already divisive public discourse.