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In New Zealand, 2 Mosques Came Under A 'Terrorist Attack'


We are following the news from New Zealand this morning. There has been an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, which is that country's second-biggest city. It appears that people who were worshipping in these mosques were gunned down. At least 49 people are dead. Many others have been injured. This is the voice of an eyewitness, Nour Travis, calling into Newstalk ZB.


NOUR TRAVIS: I was really lucky. People were just, like - they're falling down, like - I wasn't. I was lucky. I thought, I'm going, as well.

GREENE: That's a witness to these attacks, Nour Travis. Multiple suspects, we should say, are in custody at this hour. And, as we said, many families are waiting at hospitals, hoping that their loved ones are there. I want to turn now to NPR's national security correspondent Greg Myre, who has been following this unfolding from Washington, D.C., this morning.

And, Greg, what is the latest as we know it right now?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, as you mentioned, at least 49 dead in these two mosques. Most were killed in one mosque - at least 41 of them in one and seven or so in the other. One died in the hospital. The shootings took place during the Friday prayers - midday or early afternoon in New Zealand. Four people have been arrested - three men, one woman. One of them has been charged. Police also found two explosive devices in a vehicle. And so we're still learning more details. But those are the basics right now.

GREENE: Two explosives in a vehicle - but it sounds like much of this was carried out by someone using an assault rifle.

MYRE: Exactly. These - as far as we know, all of the people killed and injured - more than 20 people injured, as well - were all shot with a sort of military-style assault rifle, apparently. Another horrific fact - this - the shooter livestreamed this on Facebook. He clearly wanted maximum attention. He's also put out a lengthy manifesto describing why he did this.

GREENE: Yeah. The manifesto - obviously, something that, I suppose, investigators are going to be incredibly interested in. What exactly do we know about this man? And what do we know about this manifesto at this point?

MYRE: Well, the one - of the four people arrested, the one who's been charged is apparently a 28-year-old Australian. And he apparently wrote this lengthy manifesto. And he makes it very clear that he's - he believes that there's a white genocide taking place and that he's doing this to sort of spark a race war. And he - his own family came from Europe. And he talks in his manifesto about the Second Amendment in the United States and that the attempt to remove firearms, as he describes it, will ultimately result in civil war in the U.S. So he's clearly drawing on a far-right, white supremacist ideology that has - you know, we've seen increasing amounts of that in this country and in other places in Europe and in New Zealand, as well, now.

GREENE: He's Australian, you said, right? Not...

MYRE: He - yes, he's - he described himself as an ordinary, white man who was born in Australia. His parents were of Scottish, Irish and English descent. And then he says he had decided not to go to college. And he'd spent some amount of time in New Zealand. He also says - he has, like, a question-and-answer part of his manifesto, where he says he'd been planning this attack in New Zealand for two years and the mosque specifically for the past three months.

GREENE: No one wants anything like this to happen anywhere in the world. But I've been struck because as we've been talking to people, journalists in New Zealand, they've been saying, this just doesn't happen here. I mean, what is New Zealand's history with incidents like this?

MYRE: Well, it's a peaceful country - a very low murder rate, low violence rate. The last mass killing there was in 1990. Thirteen people were shot dead then. It does have a lot of weapons. A lot of people in New Zealand do have guns - but again, very low murder rate. And again, the manifesto talks about this Muslim invasion. New Zealand's a very small country - a little over 4 million people. Latest figures I've seen - only about 1 percent of New Zealand's population are Muslims, most of them immigrants in the past several decades - not a big part of the country. This is a country that just does not have a lot of major trauma. The last one you could point to was back in 2011. They had a huge earthquake - 185 people were killed. And it was in Christchurch, as well. And that city has still been rebuilding.

GREENE: Yeah. One journalist noted the city really is still coming back from that, even though it's been eight years. And now they're dealing with this. OK. We'll be following all of this news from New Zealand - just tragic events this morning at these two mosques. Speaking to NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre - we appreciate it, Greg.

MYRE: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.