• Friday, Dec 13, 2019
  • Last Update : 04:04 am

Who is Brenton Tarrant?

  • Published at 01:04 am March 16th, 2019
Brenton Tarrant
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 driving in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday Reuters

Brenton Tarrant, man claiming to be a suspect in the killing of 49 people in New Zealand, said his motive was to 'create fear'

An Australian gunman involved in attacks on New Zealand mosques yesterday that left at least 49 people dead published a racist manifesto on Twitter beforehand then live streamed his rampage, according to an AFP online analysis.

Brenton Tarrant, man claiming to be a suspect in the killing of 49 people in New Zealand, said his motive was to "create fear."

The New Zealand government said it could be illegal to share the video, which showed the gunman repeatedly shooting at worshippers from close range.

"Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online," New Zealand police said in a Twitter post.

"We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed."

AFP analyzed a copy of the Facebook Live video, which shows a clean-shaven, Caucasian man with short hair driving to the Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, then shooting as he enters the building.

AFP determined the video was genuine through a digital investigation that included matching screenshots of the mosque taken from the gunman's footage with multiple images available online showing the same areas.

The manifesto detailing motivations for the attack was posted on Friday morning onto a Twitter account with the same name and profile image as the Facebook page that streamed the attack.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday confirmed the attacker at the Masjid al Noor mosque was an Australian.

"We stand here and condemn, absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist," Morrison told a press conference.

New Zealand authorities said that three people had been arrested, but their identities were not made public.

They later announced one man, aged in his late 20s, had been charged with murder and should appear in court on Saturday.

A gym trainer

Christchurch mosque gunman Brenton Tarrant worked as a personal trainer at Big River gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton, reported ABC.

Big River Squash and Fitness Centre Manager Tracey Gray confirmed the man who filmed the attack and streamed it online was Tarrant.

She said he worked at the gym after he finished school in 2009 until 2011, when he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe.

"He was a very dedicated personal trainer," Ms Gray said.

"He worked in our program that offered free training to kids in the community, and he was very passionate about that."

Ms Gray said Tarrant did not strike her as someone who had an interest in firearms.

"I think something must have changed in him during the years he spent travelling overseas," she said.

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.

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

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

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the 28-year-old attended Grafton High School before getting his qualifications in fitness.

Last year, a message on Facebook from Mr Tarrant spoke of a trip to Pakistan, "an incredible place filled with the most earnest, kind hearted and hospitable people in the world".

"The beauty of hunza and nagar valley in autumn cannot be beat," he wrote.

Digital verification

AFP confirmed the authenticity of the live streamed video partly by matching the distinctive features at the mosque seen in the footage with images available online.

These included a fence, post-box and doorway at the entrance to the mosque. 

Inside the mosque, the gunman's footage showed distinctively patterned green carpet that also matched images tagged on Google Maps as being at the same location.

Satellite navigational audio could also be heard in the video as the gunman drove to the mosque, which AFP tracked on Google StreetView showing his route for the two kilometres (1.2 miles) leading there.

The gunman spoke only occasionally while in the car, speaking in what sounded like an Australian accent.

Distinctive writing on the gunman's weapons seen in the footage also matched images posted on the Twitter account using the same name that posted the manifesto.

The manifesto was the final tweet on the account before it was suspended.

Photos of weaponry with distinctive writing on them were posted on the Twitter account on March 13. AFP took screenshots of the weapons shown in the Facebook Live video, which showed some of the exact same writing.

Scrawled in English and several Eastern European languages were the names of numerous historical military figures - many of them Europeans involved in fighting the Ottoman forces in the 15th and 16th centuries. A few took part in the Crusades, centuries earlier.

The Facebook account that posted the video was no longer available shortly after the shooting. The Twitter account of the same name was quickly suspended.

AFP downloaded the video and took screenshots of the Twitter account before they went inactive. AFP is not publishing any of the images.

A spokesman for New Zealand's interior ministry said the video is likely to be classified as objectionable content under local law, and could be illegal to share.

"The content of the video is disturbing and will be harmful for people to see," the spokesman said.

"This is a very real tragedy with real victims and we strongly encourage people to not share or view the video."