At least 49 people were killed and another 20 wounded in what has been described as a right-wing terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, which occurred during afternoon prayer on Friday.
The main suspect, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old man from Australia, is in custody and has been charged with murder. He reportedly published his plans for the attack online, including a self-aggrandising manifesto in which he said he hoped the shooting would “create an atmosphere of fear”.
Luca Traini, an Italian who opened fire on people of African origin in the town of Macerata in February 2018, was one of several names shown scrawled on weapons and ammunition in pictures published on Tarrant's Twitter account in the days before the shooting.
Il tweet con la foto del caricatore del terrorista neozelandese con il nome di Luca Traini. C’è anche Sebastiano Venier, doge veneziano che sconfisse i turchi. pic.twitter.com/fhQhajM7FU
— massimo mantellini (@mante) March 15, 2019
Traini injured six people in his attack, all of whom survived. He is currently serving 12 years in prison for racially motivated violence.
Police discovered far-right propaganda, including a copy of Mein Kampf, in Traini's home, along with symbols and memorabilia associated with Italian neofascists.
Traini claimed that he shot his victims in “revenge” for the death of a local woman, Pamela Mastropietro, whose body was found dismembered and stuffed into suitcases days before he attacked. Three Nigerian men were arrested in connection with her death, though no one has yet been convicted of the killing.
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Traini's lawyer, Giancarlo Giulianelli, on Friday condemned the “cruel attack” in Christchurch and said that his client would too.
“There is absolutely no connection,” Giulianelli said, describing the shooter's invocation of Traini's name as “disconcerting”.
“Fools are born every minute everywhere in the world.”
In the days after Traini's attack, his lawyer reported receiving “messages of solidarity” and offers of financial aid from members of the Italian public who sympathized with the shooter. In Rome, a large banner reading “Onore a Luca Traini” ('Honour to Luca Traini') was photographed on a bridge over the Tiber river.
“It's alarming, but it gives us a sense of what is happening,” commented Giulianelli at the time. Traini's attack came at the height of a toxic election campaign that saw politicians openly using xenophobic rhetoric and outbreaks of violence between extreme-right groups and their antifascist opponents.
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Among the other phrases pictured on Tarrant's guns and clips were the names of military commanders who fought battles against Muslims centuries ago, as well as Alexandre Bissonnette, a Canadian man who shot dead six people at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.
Tarrant's 70-page manifesto, laden with white power slogans, describes his motives as revenge for terrorism in Europe, and specifically names an 11-year-old Swedish girl Ebba, one of five people killed in a terror attack in Stockholm in 2017.
“When I testified in court, I said I am reminded of my daughter's death all the time and not only when people talk about [the Stockholm attack] but also when similar acts happen in other countries, but I would not even have been able to think that someone would write my daughter's name on a rifle,” her father told The Local Sweden on Friday.
Flowers left for victims of the Christchurch attack. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand's darkest days”.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home,” she said.
“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”