The self-proclaimed racist who attacked a New Zealand mosque conducting Friday prayers during an assault that killed 49 people opened fire with rifles covered in white-supremacist graffiti and listened to a song glorifying a Bosnian Serb war criminal.
These details highlight the toxic belief system behind an unprecedented, live-streamed massacre, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Trying to understand what motivated the slaughter may be difficult, as some of the material posted by the killer resembles the meme-heavy hate speech prominent in dark corners of the internet. He even seemingly randomly referenced a prominent YouTube user before carrying out the attack.
However, beneath the online tropes lies a man who matter-of-factly described himself in writing as preparing to conduct a terrorist attack before opening fire on Muslims who simply had gathered to pray on a Friday.
— The shooter’s soundtrack as he drove to the mosque included an upbeat sounding tune that belies its roots in a destructive European nationalist and religious conflict. The nationalist Serb song from the 1992-95 war that tore apart Yugoslavia glorifies Serbian fighters and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, who is jailed at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims. A YouTube video for the song shows emaciated Muslim prisoners in Serb-run camps during the war. “Beware Ustashas and Turks,” says the song, using wartime, derogatory terms for Bosnian Croats and Muslims.
— When the gunman was finished in the mosque and returned to his car, the song “Fire” by English rock band “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” as the man, a 28-year-old Australian, drives away.
— At least two rifles used in the shooting mention Ebba Akerlund, an 11-year-old girl killed in an April 2017 truck-ramming attack in Stockholm by Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old Uzbek man. Akerlund’s death is memorialized in the gunman’s apparent manifesto, published online, as an event that led to his decision to wage war against what he perceives as the enemies of Western civilization.
— The number 14 is also seen on the gunman’s rifles. It may refer to “14 Words,” which according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is a white supremacist slogan linked to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which “has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups,” according to the center, which monitors hate groups.
— In photographs from a now deleted Twitter account associated with the suspect that match the weaponry seen in his live-streamed video, there is a reference to “Vienna 1683,” the year the Ottoman Empire suffered a defeat in their siege of the city at the Battle of Kahlenberg. “Acre 1189,” a reference to the Crusades, is also on the guns.
— The name Charles Martel, who the Southern Poverty Law Center says white supremacists credit “with saving Europe by defeating an invading Muslim force at the Battle of Tours in 734,” was also on the weapons.
Associated Press writer Stephen Wright in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.