Stories are filtering in about what took place Friday during the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed at least 49, and by all accounts they're terrifying. ABC News reports on worshippers diving under benches and leaping over fences to get away from the gunfire, with some initially not registering what was going on. "I thought at first it must have been somebody banging on the window," one witness says. A woman driving by one of the mosques told local media she thought she just heard fireworks. "Everyone was in chaos, just running for their lives," a teen witness tells TVNZ. Now, in the aftermath, the Muslim community in Christchurch waits to get word from missing friends and family. "Nobody's answering their phones," a rep for the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand tells the New York Times. “We don’t know if they’re at the hospital or out of reach." More on the attacks:
- In custody: The AP notes so far there are three people in custody; one man has been charged with murder. Police were still determining what roles the different suspects may have played in the attacks.
- On the guns: At least two rifles used in the shooting were said to include two things of note: the number 14—which the AP says could refer to the white supremacist "14 Words" slogan—and scrawled references to 11-year-old Ebba Akerlund, who was killed in a 2017 terror attack in Sweden. (The Daily Beast has more specifics on Ebba's story, including how her father is "mortified" at the use of her name.) The gunman also reportedly listened to music glorifying Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic.
- The 'manifesto': Per the Guardian, a 74-page document from a man who identified himself as a suspect in the attack named Brenton Tarrant, has been circulating in which he calls himself a fascist, spouts off about white genocide, and says he wants to create "an atmosphere of fear" for Muslims. The author also claims he received a "blessing" for the attack from Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
- The video: Seventeen minutes of footage captured by an alleged gunman as the shootings happened made its way online via Facebook Live; Facebook took down the video soon after. That footage was "made to go viral," per the New York Times, adding that the shootings mark "a grim new age of social media-fueled terrorism."
- Keeping collateral off the internet: BuzzFeed reports that, despite the best efforts of New Zealand police to keep the video, as well as the accompanying manifesto, from spreading, it proved a most challenging task. YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook struggled to keep up with all the instances of the video popping up, and some news outlets in the UK outright flouted the requests to not propagate any such links.
- Speaking of viral: PewDiePie was one of the names thrown out there by a suspect during the video livestream, and the YouTube star is now expressing his dismay at being tied in any way to the killings, per the New York Post. "I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person," he tweeted early Friday. "My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy."
- Shifting the blame? One take on the shootings receiving lots of attention Friday: that of Australian Sen. Fraser Anning, who issued a statement met with instant widespread condemnation, per HuffPost UK. Although Anning said such "violent vigilantism can never be justified," he then changed gears to point the finger at New Zealand's immigration program, and Muslims themselves, for the terror attack. "While Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators," he said.
(President Trump offered his support
to New Zealand.)