The alleged shooter in the New Zealand mosque massacre was a globe-trotting young Australian and avowed racist who immersed himself in an Internet subculture of extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, white supremacist ideology.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, was captured and arrested Friday in Christchurch, where he is alleged to have shot and killed 49 people in terrorist attacks on two mosques a few miles apart. He was charged with murder and appeared in court on Saturday.
Tarrant had no criminal record and was not previously known to investigators who follow extremist groups. Australia’s prime minister said authorities were investigating a detailed, lurid guide to Tarrant’s plans, ideas, and inspirations, a 74-page manifesto that was left behind after the attack and on a Twitter account that Tarrant created three days before the shootings. The account had zero followers until Tarrant’s name began circulating after Friday’s assault.
The alleged shooter wanted the world to see what he’d done: He apparently posted links on Facebook that connected to live video of the massacre from a camera mounted on his body.
The manifesto indicates that he moved to New Zealand to stage his attack, which he had been planning for two years. His aim, he said, was to defend ‘‘our lands’’ from ‘‘invaders,’’ to ‘‘reduce immigration rates’’ and to deepen division and start a civil war in the United States.
After his father died in 2011, Tarrant, a former fitness trainer who gave free lessons to children in the Australian town where he grew up, spent several years traveling around the world.
He visited Pakistan and North Korea and in a Facebook message, Tarrant called Pakistan ‘‘an incredible place filled with the most earnest, kind hearted, and hospitable people in the world.’’
Yet Tarrant declared himself a ‘‘racist’’ and ‘‘ethno-nationalist eco-fascist’’ in his manifesto, a compendium of slogans, poems, and diatribes against immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and religious converts. He said Communist China was the nation with ‘‘political and social values’’ closest to his.
Tarrant, who described himself as ‘‘a regular white man, from a regular family,’’ said he did not hate foreigners or Muslims who lived in their ‘‘homelands.’’
‘‘I spent many years travelling through many, many nations,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I was treated wonderfully. . . . The varied cultures of the world greeted me with warmth and compassion.’’ But he said immigrants were ‘‘invaders . . . who colonize other peoples lands.’’
Tarrant, who according to London’s Independent newspaper met with right-wing extremists during a visit to Europe in 2017, declared allegiance to a group he called Europeans. The weapons the shooter carried were covered with the names of men who murdered Jews and Muslims in Europe.
‘‘The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European,’’ he wrote.
In his tweets — which Twitter deleted — and manifesto, Tarrant demonstrated a distanced nonchalance about the carnage he was planning. A tweet saying, ‘‘Soviet and American troops meeting in Berlin 1945’’ linked to a Sponge Bob Square Pants video of cartoon characters in a burning city. Another tweet links to video of attack helicopters shooting at what appears to be a Middle Eastern town. Tarrant added this label: ‘‘Coming soon to an immigrant suburb near you.’’
In his manifesto, he decided, he wrote, to ‘‘commit to force. To commit to violence.’’
More than perhaps any other mass shooter in recent times, the author of this manifesto spells out the roots of his extremism in detail. He said he was inspired by the British fascist Oswald Mosley and by other mass shooters, such as Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African Americans in a Bible study class in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
Tarrant claimed he contacted an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and got a blessing for the attack from Breivik, a right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011.
News accounts in Australia said Tarrant told acquaintances that he funded his travels by making money from Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency similar to bitcoin. Organized white supremacists, some of whom are banned from using PayPal and other major digital pay systems, often trade advice online about using cryptocurrencies that promise complete anonymity in transactions.
But Tarrant also mentioned in social media posts that he had been living off money he inherited after his father, Rodney, who worked as a garbageman and was a competitive triathlete, died in 2010.
Tarrant grew up in Grafton, a small town near Australia’s southeast coast, south of Brisbane. He said in the manifesto that his was a ‘‘working class, low income family.’’
During and after high school, Tarrant worked at a gym in his hometown. His former boss there, Tracey Gray, told a Sydney TV station that Tarrant ‘‘never showed any extremist views or any, you know, crazy behavior.’’
In the manifesto, Tarrant posed a series of questions to himself.
‘‘Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?’’ the author of the manifesto wrote.
The reply: ‘‘As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policymaker and leader? Dear god no.’’
Was this a terrorist attack? ‘‘Yes,’’ he wrote, ‘‘it is a terrorist attack.’’