New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden has apologised to her country’s Muslim community for security lapses which led to multiple shooting deaths in two Christchurch mosques.
A royal commission of inquiry report into the country’s worst massacre has found that New Zealand security agencies were almost exclusively occupied with the threat of Islamist terrorism when a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers last year.
In that attack, mass shootings were carried out at two consecutive mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers on March 15, 2019.
The shooter was an Australian white supremacist radicalised on YouTube who livestreamed his attack on Facebook.
Brenton Tarrant, now 30, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to 92 counts of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.
The report found that despite the shortcomings of various agencies, Tarrant hadn’t told anybody about his plans or left any clues until he emailed out his manifesto just eight minutes before he began shooting, which came too late for agencies to respond.
It said there was no plausible way Tarrant’s plans could have been detected in advance “except by chance”.
The inquiry also criticised police for failing to enforce proper checks when issuing a firearms licence to Tarrant.
Ardern received global praise for her response to the attack and for swiftly banning the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons Tarrant used. She also launched a global movement against online extremism.
However, the Wellington authorities were criticised for ignoring repeated warnings from the Muslim community that hate crimes against them were escalating. Muslim organisations described how they felt they were targeted by security agencies while threats against them were not taken seriously.
Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque targeted by the shooter, said the report showed that “institutional prejudice” exists in government agencies.
The government has now said it will make changes so police can better record and respond to hate crimes.
The report recommended mandatory reporting of firearms injuries by hospitals after it was revealed Tarrant was treated for injuries to his right eye and leg after accidentally shooting himself while cleaning his gun a few months before the attack.
The report described Tarrant as “socially isolated” with few friends but an avid internet user and online gamer. He frequented extreme right-wing discussion boards but in an interview with the commission from his prison cell in Auckland, he said YouTube, was a bigger source of information and inspiration.
Ardern said the government has agreed to implement all of the report’s recommendations and apologised for agency shortcomings.
Opposition leader Judith Collins said the report’s recommendations need to be scrutinised and the nation must tread carefully to safeguard rights and liberties.
Abdigani Ali, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, told reporters in Christchurch that his community should have been kept safe.