Mass Shooting in New Zealand Leaves Numerous Dead

National Security

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Mass Shooting at New Zealand Mosques Leaves Numerous Dead, Injured
 

​what we know

  • ​​Forty-nine people were killed and another forty-eight people were injured in shootings at two mosques--Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque--in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  • Police have a suspect in custody, a 28-year-old man who is scheduled to appear in court Saturday morning. 

  • Police have two other individuals in custody, but it is unclear if all of them were involved in the shootings.

  • Authorities are urging Christchurch residents to remain indoors and report suspicious behavior to 111.

  • One of the alleged shooters live-streamed the attack on social media.

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross created a page​ to help families locate their loved ones following the shootings. Identities of the victims have not yet been released.

  • ASIS International's made resources on active shooter prevention and response​ available to the general public. Find more information on its dedicated resources page.

sm staff signing off for the evening

UPDATE 5:30 p.m. ET

The Security Management staff is signing off on updating this post for the day. For breaking news updates, please visit:


 
We'll be back to update this page next week as more information is confirmed.

 

Attack is Concerning for Many Reasons, Says ASIS Council Chair

UPDATE 5:10 p.m. ET

​The heinous attack in New Zealand is concerning for several reasons, beyond the immediate event and aftermath, the chair of ASIS International's Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime Council said Friday.

"The attack in New Zealand is particularly disturbing because of the sophistication. There was clearly planning involved by the attacker and accomplices," says Josh Schubring, CPP. "The shooter fired at multiple locations and he, or his accomplices, attached at least two IEDs to their vehicle. They created multiple scenes and confusion for response forces." Besides serving as council chair, Schubring is principal, security solutions at Schubring Global Solutions.

"It is not clear yet what the intent of the IEDs were—​possibly to be deployed against responders as a secondary attack, or to delay a response," he explains. But he also cautions that since the attack just happened, much more will be known in the days and weeks to come, such as information about possible accessories and sympathizers.

Also concerning was the attacker's use of social media, he adds. "He clearly wanted to glorify his attack and create some sort of fame. Moreover, he released a rambling manifesto that, in his mind, justifies his attack, including an anti-immigration stance."

According to various media reports, prior to the attacks, one of the alleged suspects released a 74-page manifesto against cultural dilution through immigration, which was particularly aimed at Muslim migrants. The names of perpetrators of recent mosque attacks, including the attacks in London and Quebec City, were cited in the manifesto, according to reports.

"Immediately after an attack like this we are concerned that it could be coordinated with other similar attacks elsewhere," Schubring says. "Beyond that, we become concerned that the attack will fuel copycats. Worse yet, copycats who try to one-up this attacker and learn from his actions."

"From a counterterrorism perspective, most modern nations have a robust counterterrorism capability; however, these resources can only respond so quickly during an event," he says. "Significant events have taught us that we need to respond differently than we have in the past.

"Collectively, we have never been better at sharing intelligence and developing watch lists and cooperative investigations," he continues. "But even with all of the advanced technologies and personnel dedicated to finding these adversaries, we depend on them popping up on the radar. Even then, there has to be enough time for a response."

Finally, the attack is also a reminder of how soft targets where people assemble need increased security, Schubring explains. The Christchurch mosque attacks are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent years, including an attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead in 2018, and a shooting that killed 26 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017.

"As security practitioners, we realize that anywhere there is a mass gathering, appropriate security measures need to be taken. Among others, these include good physical security design, the ability to detect developing threats, and the ability to defeat or delay them until first responders can arrive," he says. "Whenever we have a mass gathering of potentially targeted groups, our security needs to be heightened. Unfortunately, houses of worship fall into this category."

New Zealand Prime minister gives investigation update

​UPDATE 4:45 p.m. ET

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities arrested three individuals and one will appear in court on Saturday morning to face charges related to the mosque attacks. 

In a press briefing, Arden explained that authorities were still investigating whether the two other individuals were involved in the attacks and that the nation continues to seek answers. None of the individuals were on watchlists prior to their arrests.​

Arden also confirmed that the suspected gunman had a gun license and lawfully possessed five guns used for the ​attacks, including semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. She also vowed to change New Zealand's firearms laws in response to the attacks; however, she did not provide specifics on what measures would be taken.​​​

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush is in Christchurch and said via Twitter that he will provide a media update later in the day. Deputy Commissioner of Maori and Ethnic Services Wally Haumaha also traveled to Christchurch to provide support to the community, along with 15 additional ethnic liaison officers.​​​

Mosques remain closed in New zealand

​​UPDATE 2:50 p.m. ET

Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, remained closed on Saturday morning (local time) and are likely to remain on high alert for some time. 

Authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States have also increased security in areas with large Muslim populations and around places of worship in response to the attack, according to The Guardian. 

"In the wake of this tragedy, we urge mosques, Islamic schools, and other community institutions in the United States and around the world to take stepped-up security precautions, particularly during times of communal prayer," said Nihad Awad, national executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. 

To aid houses of worship looking to increase their security measures, the ASIS Cultural Properties Council released a Security Risk Analysis Guide in 2017. The guide, "Recommended Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship Around the World for People of All Faiths," is designed to increase security on a budget. 

These organizations "often can't afford to have barriers, metal detectors​, or bollards," said Jim McGuffey, CPP, PSI, PSP, a member of the council who spearheaded the effort to publish the guide. Most religious organizations are "not big money makers--most of them are smaller churches and not well-funded. When we approach them with security countermeasures, we have to think outside the box."

ASIS International also hosted a webinar​ in November 2018 on protecting houses of worship and evolving threats. The webinar includes assessments by security professionals on the best practices for protecting congregations, and is available to the public for free.

REPORTS: ATTACKS BEAR SIGNS OF RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM

UPDATE 1:30 p.m. ET

Friday's unprecedented mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, come amid a worldwide rise in violence driven by far-right ideologies, and some analysts foresee greater security efforts in the future aimed at preventing such violence.  

In New Zealand, Islamist-related terrorism has likely been a recent priority for the New Zealand security services' resources, given Islamist attacks in nearby Australia and the decision by some New Zealand citizens to move to Syria and join the Islamic State, according to Christopher Hawkins, senior analyst at Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

But the Christchurch mosque attacks, on the other hand, bore many signs of right-wing extremism and anti-Muslim sentiment, and this may spur a response from New Zealand security officials. "Local counter-terrorism forces are likely to be sufficiently resourced to detect and disrupt the emergence of new far-right radicalism," Hawkins, senior analyst at Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said in a statement released after the attacks.    

According to various media reports, prior to the attacks, one of the alleged suspects released a 74-page manifesto against cultural dilution through immigration, which was particularly aimed at Muslim migrants. The author of the manifesto described himself as male, and as an ethnonationalist and fascist. The names of perpetrators of recent mosque attacks, including the attacks in London and Quebec City, were cited in the manifesto, according to reports.

In addition, writing that was found on the weapons used in the attacks included references to historical battles in which Muslims were defeated.

The recent uptick in right-wing extremist attacks worldwide has been "likely emboldened by the electoral success of far-right politicians," Hawkins said.  "The mass casualty nature of the [Christchurch] attack has the potential to inspire other right-wing extremists, but future attacks are likely to be of lower capability and intensity."

One of the suspects in the attacks has been named by local media as 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen. According to media reports, Tarrant live-streamed his attack on the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue, the larger mosque, where 40 were killed. Eyewitness accounts reported that the attack began during Friday's afternoon prayers, when at least one gunman entered the main room before a sermon.

Two improvised explosive devices were found attached to a vehicle at one of the mosques, and several firearms were recovered from the suspects at both mosques. One local report suggests that a threat was made on a Facebook page against local Muslims before the attack, but this has yet to be confirmed by police, Hawkins said.  

The firearms used in the attack on Masjid Al Noor—two ​assault rifles, two shotguns, and two other riflesare all reportedly legal, but they seemed to be coupled with high-capacity magazines that enable greater concentration of fire. The magazines were likely available online.

Although New Zealand has experienced violent political events like protest bombings, the mosque attacks in Christchurch are considered by some to be the country's first large-scale terrorist attack. "Tarrant's apparent co-ordination with other assailants indicates a pool of anti-Muslim sympathizers in Australasia, but does not evince a much larger cell or network," Hawkins said. 


 

​​​portrait of shooter emerges

​UPDATE 12:10 p.m. ET

Hours after police had a suspect in custody, more details began to emerge about the alleged gunman who's been charged with murder. 

Authorities have not released the suspected shooter's name, but confirmed that he livestreamed footage of the attack on social media. The New Zealand Police department​ urged social media sites to remove the footage.

​Facebook responded and removed the footage, along with taking down posts praising and supporting the gunman's actions. 

"New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we removed both the shooter's Facebook account and the video," said Mia Garlick, a Facebook representative in New Zealand in an interview with CNET. "We're also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we're aware."

Along with posting a link to the  video footage of the attack, an Australian man in his 20s who may be the suspected gunman in custody also posted a link on his personal Facebook page to an 87-page manifesto. 

"The manifesto, the harrowing video, and what appear to be the gunman's social media posts feature typical white nationalist rhetoric with layers upon layers of irony and meta jokes, making it difficult to parse what is genuine and what he just thought was funny," according to an analysis by The New York Times.  

The Times further assessed that the manifesto's author's choice of language and memes suggested he had ties to the far-right online community, which has seen a resurgence in the United States.

The Southern Poverty Law Center found that more than 1,000 hate groups were active in the United States in 2018--the fourth year in a row that hate group activity has increased across the nation.

"The vast majority of hate groups--including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates, and white nationalists--adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology," the center said in a press release on its latest Intelligence Report. 

MASS SHOOTING AT MOSQUES LEAVE NEARLY 50 DEAD IN NEW ZEALAND

UPDATE 9:15 a.m. ET

Forty-nine people are dead and at least 20 are seriously injured following mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. on Friday.

Forty-one were killed at the Al Noor Mosque in the city's center, and seven more were killed at a mosque in Linwood, a suburb a few miles away, around the time of afternoon prayer. One additional victim died later from injuries sustained in the attack, NPR reports​.  New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the event "can now only be described as a terrorist attack."

A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder. Three other people were apprehended but not yet charged. A number of firearms were recovered from both crime scenes, and there were also "possibly" two improvised explosive devices on one vehicle, according to New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Three other people are in custody.

"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," said Ardern in a press conference Friday. 

​​ A gunman broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one of the mosques, apparently recorded with a head-mounted camera, beginning at around 1:40 p.m. local time, according to Reuters.

The attack raised the national security threat level from low to high, for the first time in New Zealand's history.

Police have told mosques to close their doors until further notice. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted earlier today: "My condolences to the grieving families of the victims in Christchurch, New Zealand. No one should have to fear such violence in their place of worship. The American people mourn this tragedy together with our friends in New Zealand." ​

The situation in New Zealand is ongoing, and Security Management will continue to update this post as more information becomes available.