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Why would an Australian national travel to New Zealand to conduct a terrorist attack? 

This was the question many asked when the identity of the Christchurch mosque shooter was revealed as 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, from New South Wales, Australia.

Before the attack, Tarrant posted his manifesto online.

According to Reuters, the manifesto said New Zealand was not originally chosen for the attack, but an attack in New Zealand would show “that nowhere in the world was safe.”

Brenton Tarrant, from New South Wales, Australia
Brenton Tarrant, 28, from New South Wales, Australia, flashes a "white power" sign, a supremacist symbol, in New Zealand court. Image Credit: AFP

It emerged that the massacre of Muslims at the New Zealand mosques show the global reach of a white nationalist movement that preaches an imagined "European" ideal, rejects immigration and shares often vicious threats over the internet.

neo nazis
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Image Credit: AFP

Personal trainer

After he finished school in 2009 until 2011, Tarrant worked as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton, the ABC reported.

In 2011 he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe. Tarrant said he worked for a short time before making some money from Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, then used the money to fund his travels.

Norway's Anders Breivik
The New Zealand killer said he was inspired by Norway's Anders Breivik, who is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people July 2011 Image Credit: AFP

He is known to have visited Europe, South-East Asia and east Asia.

Identitarian movement Berlin
A 2017 march in Berlin by the right-wing "Identitarian" movement which supports white nationalist ideals. Image Credit: AFP

His travels also took him to North Korea, where he was photographed in a tour group visiting the Samjiyon Grand Monument.

Guns

There were five guns used by Tarrant, the primary perpetrator of the mosque massacre: Two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.

Tarrant was in possession of a gun license. A lever-action firearm was also found.

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A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, shows him retrieving weapons from the boot of his car in Christchurch, New Zealand. Image Credit: Reuters

"I'm advised this was acquired in November of 2017," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Self-proclaimed racist

The self-proclaimed racist who carried out the monstrous attacks on two New Zealand mosques during Friday prayers in an assault that killed 50 people used rifles covered in white-supremacist graffiti and listened to a song glorifying a Bosnian Serb war criminal.

Manifesto Tarrant
The manifesto, reportedly prepared and published on social media by the Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, prime suspect in the New Zealand terror attack. Image Credit: Social Media

These details highlight the toxic beliefs behind an unprecedented, live-streamed massacre, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Some of the material posted by the killer resembles the meme-heavy hate speech prominent in dark corners of the internet. Beneath the online tropes lies a man who matter-of-factly wrote that he was preparing to conduct a horrific attack.

MUSIC

— The shooter’s soundtrack as he drove to the mosque included an upbeat-sounding tune that belies its roots in a destructive European nationalist and religious conflict. The nationalist Serb song from the 1992-95 war that tore apart Yugoslavia glorifies Serbian fighters and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, who is jailed at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims. A YouTube video for the song shows emaciated Muslim prisoners in Serb-run camps during the war. “Beware Ustashas and Turks,” says the song, using wartime, derogatory terms for Bosnian Croats and Muslims.

Brenton father and mother
A photo of the Tarrant family showing Brenton in his late father's arms. Image Credit: Social Media

— When the gunman returned to his car after the shooting, the song “Fire” by English rock band “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” as the man, a 28-year-old Australian, drives away.

Symbols

— At least two rifles used in the shooting bore references to Ebba Akerlund, an 11-year-old girl killed in an April 2017 truck-ramming attack in Stockholm by Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old Uzbek man. Akerlund’s death is memorialized in the gunman’s apparent manifesto, published online, as an event that led to his decision to wage war against what he perceives as the enemies of Western civilization.

— The number 14 is also seen on the gunman’s rifles. It may refer to “14 Words,” which according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is a white supremacist slogan linked to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which “has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups,” according to the center, which monitors hate groups.

Historical references

— In photographs from a now deleted Twitter account associated with the suspect that match the weaponry seen in his live-streamed video, there is a reference to “Vienna 1683,” the year the Ottoman Empire suffered a defeat in its siege of the city at the Battle of Kahlenberg.

— “Acre 1189,” a reference to the Crusades, is also written on the guns.

— Four names of legendary Serbs who fought against the 500-year-rule of the Muslim Ottomans in the Balkans, written in the Cyrillic alphabet, are also seen on the gunman’s rifles.

— The name Charles Martel, who the Southern Poverty Law Center says white supremacists credit “with saving Europe by defeating an invading Muslim force at the Battle of Tours in 734,” was also on the weapons.

— They also bore the inscription “Malta 1565,” a reference to the Great Siege of Malta, when the Maltese and the Knights of Malta defeated the Turks.

— The names of two 15th-century Hungarian military leaders known for fighting against the advancing Ottomans are also mentioned. John Hunyadi’s name is written on a rifle, while Mihaly Szilagyi Horogszegi’s name is on an ammunition magazine.

What do we know about Tarrant

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, the man accused of the Christchurch terror attack, was a member of Bruce Rifle Club in Milton, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Tarrant practised shooting an AR-15 at the club's range.

Tarrant lived in Dunedin since at least 2017 and has been described by residents as both quiet and someone who liked to talk about his travels.

Bruce Rifle Club vice-president Scott Williams confirmed to the Otago Daily Times that Tarrant is a member of the club, which is based in Milburn near Milton, and practised shooting at its range.

Williams said said that from what he could remember, Tarrant used an AR-15 and hunting rifle while practising at the range.

AR-15 rifle licence

Anyone with a standard firearm licence could own an AR-15, but there were limits on the way they could be configured, he said.

Tarrant seemed "as normal as anyone else'' and had "certainly'' never mentioned anything about his beliefs about Muslims.

The club, which had just over 100 members, was in "shock", he said.

Williams was unsure how many times Tarrant had used the range but said he was always happy to help out around the club, which he joined in early 2018.