No ‘single’ sign could have averted Christchurch attack: report

USA & World

No ‘single’ sign could have averted Christchurch attack: report

New Zealand has released an almost 800-page report into the March 2019 killing of 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch and concluded that authorities could not have been alerted of an imminent attack.

“No single aspect of it could have alerted public sector agencies to an impending terrorist attack,” the Royal Commission report said on Tuesday.

The report, however, took issue with Christchurch authorities for deploying “an inappropriate concentration of resources” in probing religious violence in the country, distracting them from other possible threats such as that of white supremacists, the commission also concluded.

The inquiry was formed to look into the response of the authorities and to determine whether the attack could have been prevented.

“Ultimately, this roughly 800-page report can be distilled into one simple premise: Muslim New Zealanders should be safe. Anyone who cause New Zealand harm regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, should be safe,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday following the release of the report.

“New Zealanders deserve a system that does its best to keep you safe, and that’s what we are committed to building.”

In hindsight, there were circumstances that could be linked to the Australian attacker’s plan but the signs were too “fragmentary” and it was difficult to put together to establish evidence that merit immediate action, it said.

Brenton Tarrant carried out the attack in 2019 and live-streamed the killing on social media.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole earlier this year. He had expressed white supremacist and anti-Muslim views before the killings.

‘Steroid overuse’

The report said that more than a year before the attack, Tarrant was found to have shown “hallmarks of steroid overuse” and had not shown any interest in giving up the use of testosterone.

In July 2018, the gunman had also injured his right eye and thigh in a firearm accident at his home.

By then, he had already been practising shooting with a large cache of firearms. It was during that time that he had injured himself when his firearm malfunctioned and jammed, the report said.

He reportedly sought treatment at the hospital in Dunedin, but officials at the hospital failed to alert the police about it.

None of those events, however, could have established that he was plotting an attack, or that he was already amassing weapons, according to the inquiry’s findings.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Christchurch, said the “overriding” sentiment of the Muslim community is acceptance and support of the 44 recommendations listed to promote more safety.

But at the same time, there were also some who felt that “not enough was said” in the report, about how complaints of the Muslim community were overlooked.

On Monday, Ardern had promised “accountability” for the families of the victims following the worst mass killings in the country’s history.

“I absolutely appreciate the community will want to see accountability in terms of implementation. They will want to see who is responsible for coordinating some of those efforts … and we will be providing that,” Ardern told a regular media briefing.

The report took about 18 months to finish and contains interviews with hundreds of people including security agencies, Muslim community leaders, international experts and officials in England, Norway and Australia, as well as with Ardern.

Ardern received global praise for her compassionate response to the attack and for swiftly banning the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons used in the attack. She also launched a global movement against online hardline views.

However, authorities were criticised for ignoring repeated warnings from the Muslim community that hate crimes against them were escalating, and that security agencies were failing to record such crimes.

Ardern met family members of the victims and some survivors on Sunday and promised immediate action on the royal commission report, but said some recommendations may take time to implement.