A comprehensive report into the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings in which 51 Muslim worshippers were slaughtered, sheds new light on how the gunman was able to elude detection by authorities as he planned out his attack.
The nearly 800-page Royal Commission of Inquiry report revealed that New Zealand security agencies were “almost exclusively” focused on the perceived threat of Islamist terrorism rather than white supremacists.
The Commission also criticised police for failing to enforce proper checks when granting a firearms license to Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant, who released a racist manifesto shortly before the attack and streamed the shootings live on Facebook.
But despite the shortcomings, the report found no failings within government agencies that would have prevented the attack at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
The report said there was no plausible way Tarrant’s plans could have been detected “except by chance.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government has agreed to implement all of the recommendations and apologized for agency shortcomings.
“But an apology would be hollow without action. So, in order to ensure New Zealanders are safe, the government has agreed in principle with all 44 recommendations contained in the report,” she added.
New Zealand has one intelligence agency that focuses on domestic threats and one that focuses on international threats.
Often those agencies are focused on immediate events like keeping visiting dignitaries safe.
The report recommends establishing a new, well-financed intelligence and security agency that’s more strategic in nature and can focus on emerging threats and developing a counter-terrorism strategy.
The 800-page report said there was an “inappropriate concentration of resources” on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.
Submissions to the commission by various Muslim organisations described how they felt they were targeted by security agencies while threats against them were not taken seriously.
“We find it concerning that the Commissioners found systemic failures and an inappropriate concentration of resources towards Islamic terrorism, and yet state that these would not have made a difference to the terrorist being detected prior to the event,” the Islamic Women’s Council said in a statement.
Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole in August for the attack.
Ardern received global praise for her compassionate response to the attack and for swiftly banning the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons Tarrant used. She also launched a global movement against online extremism.
Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Al Noor mosque targeted by the shooter, said the report showed “institutional prejudice and unconscious bias” exists in government agencies.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports