A “country boy” from Australia who spent years traveling the world and appears to have had an obsession with neo-Nazi ideology is the primary suspect in the murder of 49 people at a New Zealand mosque on Friday.
President Trump responded immediately, condemning the “horrible massacre” and offering his “warmest sympathy” to the people of the island nation.
The suspect, Brenton Tarrant, 28, is scheduled to appear in court on charges of murder after he allegedly armed himself with a shotgun and rifle, barged into a Christchurch mosque, turned on his video equipment and started shooting.
As the Daily Mail of London reported, he live-streamed the shootings “in a horrifying 17-minute video posted on Facebook.”
A woman who knew him while he was growing up in Grafton, Australia, told the Daily Mail “something happened to him” during the years after 2011 when he started international travels. A “manifesto” he posted online appears to support that.
Tarrant explained in his online postings that he made money trading Bitcoin so he could visit a number of nations, including Pakistan and North Korea.
“But he seems to have become obsessed with terrorist attacks that happened in Europe between 2016 and 2017. His ranting manifesto is filled with neo-Nazi ideology and hatred for Muslim people,” the report said.
He was arrested shortly after the shooting, and several others were in custody while police assessed their involvement.
Police reported at least another 48 people were injured. The 49 fatalities were at two mosques, the Al Noor Mosque and another nearby, the Masjid in Linwood.
The report said Tarrant mentions in his manifesto he was inspired by Anders Brevik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.
The alleged shooter explains he “disliked” Muslims and called them “invaders.” He claimed, according to the Daily Mail, to be a supporter of President Trump.
But a statement from the White House said it was “outrageous” to make any connection between the “deranged individual” and the president, “who had repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism, and has made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack.”
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut immediately turned the massacre into a partisan political attack.
“Words do have consequences, and we know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about ‘good people on both sides,'” he said.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said the State Department was following up.
“We’re very concerned. We’re going to cooperate with the New Zealand authorities to the extent we can.”
Forty-one of the victims were at Al Noor, seven in Linwood and another died in the hospital.
The primary suspect was arrested after a police officer rammed his vehicle and dragged him out of the driver’s seat.