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CNN International: The 28-Year-Old Suspect in New Zealand Mass Shooting to Appear in Court; Muslim Countries Condemn New Zealand Mass Shooting. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 15, 2019 - 17:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Welcome to CNN. I'm Hala Gorani. We are following breaking news. I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change, New Zealand's prime minster said just moments ago as she updated a shaken nation on the country's worst mass shooting ever.

A gunman slaughtered 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the victims came from across the Muslim world and she confirmed the alleged gunman will appear in court soon and said that two other suspects remain in custody. The question is, are they directly linked to the massacre? The gunman was identified as a 28-year-old Australian.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: This individual has traveled around the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand. They were not a resident of Christchurch. In fact, they were currently based in Dunedin at the time of this event. Inquiries are ongoing to establish with the other two who were arrested were directly involved with this incident.


GORANI: Well, there are so many horrific details about these attacks. It's hard to know where to begin. Authorities say the gunman live streamed this massacre on social media and he left behind a long rant manifesto spewing anti-immigrant and anti--Muslim hate.

CNN's Anna Coren has more.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Abhorrent, unprecedented, sickening. No words seem enough as the world attempts to come to terms with Friday's mass shooting in New Zealand, of all places.

ARDERN: This is and will be one of New Zealand's darkest days.

COREN: Terrorist attacked worshippers attending prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosque in Christchurch. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hardly know the fighting. And because on the main entrance, the main entrance of the building, and then everybody just run toward the backdoors just to save themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the people, they're shooting from inside the mosque, and at the time of jumping and (inaudible).

COREN: For most, there was no warning. Scores were killed, dozens injured. The confusion and chaos lasting for hours as authorities kept the city on lockdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I drove past the mosque and there were a lot of bodies outside. So, we've just been waiting here since then just to see if our son is all right, but he's not answering his phone.

COREN: A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the attacks. Other arrests were made and authorities are trying to determine if those people were involved. An 87-page manifesto was posted on social media. In it, pages and pages of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and instructions for an attack.

ARDERN: This can only be described as a terrorist attack.

COREN: One that was partially streamed live on social media, streamed from a helmet camera showing the gunman on a killing spree.

MIKE BUSH, NEW ZEALAND POLICE COMMISSIONER: I have seen social media footage. It's very disturbing. It shouldn't be in the public domain and we are doing everything we can to remove it.

COREN: Facebook says it removed the video after it was alerted to it by New Zealand police.

As authorities continue to piece together how such a brutal attack could have taken place in tolerant, prosperous remote New Zealand, officials have made clear that the hatred that may have driven the attackers will not be allowed to endure.

[17:05:09] ARDERN: Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.

COREN: Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: Well, as you heard there from the New Zealand Prime Minster, the gunman is -- the suspected gunman is Australian, leaving many in New Zealand wondering why he targeted their country in particular and the mayor of Christchurch where all this unfolded spoke to reporters a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIANNE DALZIEL, MAYOR OF CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND: This sort of extremism is not something that we've seen here, but he is not from here. He came here. He came here with hate in his heart and intention to kill in his mind. So, he did not develop his hatred here. He came here to perform this act of terrorism.


GORANI: We are expecting the 28-year-old Australian man, who has been charged with murder, to soon appear in Christchurch district court. Journalist, Blis Savidge, is outside the courthouse. When are we expecting this suspect to make an appearance, Blis?

BLIS SAVIDGE, NEW ZEALAND JOURNALIST: Yeah. We're not exactly sure. The court appearance was scheduled for the 9:00 a.m. The sign on the door said that court would open at 9:00 a.m. It's currently just a little past 10:00 a.m. The doors just opened and we received a little bit of information.

We've been told that there are three news agencies that are allowed to go in. I have not heard anything about whether the public is allowed to go in or not. That's what we're hearing so far. But still, no one has been let in, and we have not seen the suspect yet. Some people are speculating that maybe they saw a van coming in earlier or maybe he had already been in the building. So, we're still -- there's still a lot of questions.

But there are a lot of people waiting anxiously here to -- waiting anxiously here to see more and see if they can get a glimpse of the suspect. There are journalists from all across the world. There are people -- local people here, even some people from the local Muslim community that say that their father was a victim of the attacks, so a lot of people anxiously waiting to see what they can find out.

GORANI: And we understand from the prime minster this man will be charged with murder. Is that correct?

SAVIDGE: Yeah. According to the police commissioner that, yes, the 28-year-old suspect will be charged with murder. Interestingly enough, you know, when the reports first came out about social media, a name was named. But now that he's been charged with murder, they are being very tight-lipped and they are not naming the suspect, just being referred to as a 28-year-old male. So, according to a lot of local reporters here usually this first court appearance is where they would decide if there would a name suppression or not.

GORANI: And there are two other people detained. Do we know anything about them?

SAVIDGE: All we know is that there are two other people related that are still being held. We don't really have any details of how exactly they were related at the time.

GORANI: OK. But authorities are saying there is some connection or is this something they are still investigating?

SAVIDGE: They are saying that there is some connection, but they're not giving exact details.

GORANI: Blis Savidge, thanks very much, outside the courthouse in Christchurch. When we have news related to the appearance of the suspect we'll go back -- we will get back to you, Blis, thanks very much.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered to help New Zealand in any way possible when he spoke with Prime Minster Ardern. At a White House event, he called the shootings terror attacks but raised some eyebrows when he answered this question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think white nationalism is a rising threat around the world?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.


GORANI: Officials in New Zealand are calling it a terrorist attack and U.S. President Donald Trump moments ago called it terror as well. Joining me now is Foria Younis, special agent for the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the FBI, and Professor Paul Spoonley, author of, "Politics of Nostalgia - Racism and the Extreme Right." Thanks to both of you for being with us.

So Foria, let me start with you. Are intelligence and law enforcement agencies as focused on white supremacy terrorism as they are on other forms a terrorism, do you think?

[17:10:00] FORIA YOUNIS, FORMER FBI AGENT: I don't think so. I think for years they have been spending time on Al Qaeda and ISIS and there has been so many indicators that white supremacy is an issue that's been increasing especially since President Obama was elected. But it's almost been pushed down by many of the law enforcement and intel agencies. There seems to be not that much concern of really focusing and investigating to the same level that they had some of the other groups that attacked us.

And you know, recently, we had the Pittsburgh attack and we've had that Coast Guard here in the U.S. We have had other indicators around the world that white supremacists are communicating and gathering up strength and motivation, but I don't think many other law enforcement agencies are doing enough investigation work and enough training to combat this new threat or this threat recently.

GORANI: And Professor Spoonley, do you agree with that, specifically when it relates to New Zealand? We were talking a few hours ago and we were discussing how there really is a rise in white supremacist ideology being shared online and pushing some people to extreme violence.

PAUL SPOONLEY, AUTHOR, POLITICS OF NOSTALGIA - RACISM AND THE EXTREME RIGHT: Yes, I absolutely agree with her that here in New Zealand we spent a lot of time and attention on left-wing extremism and Muslim terrorism internationally and domestically. And I think they dropped the ball -- the security agencies in the place have dropped the ball on this one.

I would, in their defense, say that a lot of that activity occurs online and there is a lot of it. So, you really need to resource the agencies to do a good job to monitor and track what's happening online and I don't think here in New Zealand they have anything like the resources required to do a good job in that regard.

GORANI: And Foria, could it be related to the fact that news coverage of Islamist terrorism is so much greater than white supremacist terrorism?

YOUNIS: It is. There have been so many indicators that when there is an attack by a white supremacist it's covered very differently than when there's an attack by a jihadi extremist. There are different words used. There are different words used to describe the suspect. So, there is so much evidence that there is a difference.

And part of it is, Hala, that we are human beings and we have our own tribal feelings. So, when one of your own, you know, somebody that looks like you or somebody that comes maybe from the background ethnicity wise same as you, you're less likely or you give them more sympathy and maybe take it a little bit more easy on them the way you describe them.

So, I think that is partly what's happening here. It's not pleasant to say, it's not pleasant to think about, but realistically, when somebody of the majority group does an attack on the minority group, the majority group is less likely to look at it as the same in terms of evilness as if maybe somebody from the other group did something, and I think that's partly why the law enforcement agencies are a little -- I'm not saying everybody, but they might be a little bit less likely to look at somebody who's a white supremacist as a threat.

GORANI: Paul, talk to us about the reasons we are seeing kind of a rise in this hateful ideology. What's behind it? What's behind this kind of like -- because we are talking here mainly about white men who -- and it reminds me a lot of when we describe ISIS recruits, you know, disenfranchised, they feel like there's a civilizational battle going on, that they're being invaded, that they need to take up arms to defend their tribe and civilization. Why is it happening with white supremacy where you are specifically? These are things you've studied.

SPOONLEY: Yes. Well, I think some of the words that you just used, disenfranchisement would be one, we are seeing white communities feeling as though in the face of a new cultural diversity, official policies on multiculturalism, changing economic circumstances including the possibility of job loss and community decline, and the feeling the major or majority institution don't represent their point of view, so politics, I'm afraid, media. Certainly, academics like myself are seen as just not part of humanity and not providing the degree of support and leadership they're looking for.

And I think there's a retreat into these populist and extreme movements as a way of understanding the world and reacting and feeling that they're going to have some influence on the world. But of course, ultimately, they're seeing a battle for supremacy between Islam and the western world.

[17:15:01] GORANI: All right. And Foria, I wonder if you're interested in this aspect, which is that the suspect in this Christchurch terrorist attack in the manifesto mentioned other attackers in other white supremacist terrorist attacks, whether it's Anders Breivic in Norway or Dylan Roof in the United States, and others.

This is kind of like a global far-right terrorist network in a sense where I guess people are inspired by others before them. And this is all being shared online. It's virtually impossible to police, isn't it?

YOUNIS: It's not impossible. We have done it with other groups. So, it can be done. It's difficult sometimes to get started. You've got develop an informant network. You got to develop other networks within the cyberspace. But this can be done.

And one of the places that, you know, England started -- in the U.K. they started looking at the influences, who are the main people that these people respect, who are they looking to follow up with? So it can be done, and it's -- you know, it's been done with other group in the past.

If I could add one more thing, Hala, I have worked in New Zealand when I was in the FBI. I was over there teaching and training law enforcement, and New Zealand is a wonderful country, welcoming of immigrants. I did not see any indication of me not being welcomed there as a guest.

So, this really is maybe a sour apple that came from Australia. I don't think it's representative of New Zealand and it looks like that the law enforcement and the government officials in New Zealand are saying the right things and doing what needs to be done. And my sympathies go over to the people in New Zealand.

SPOONLEY: Thank you.

GORANI: Yes, our sympathies as well at CNN. As you mentioned -- and our sympathies to you, Paul Spoonley, as your country is going through a very difficult time. And as you mentioned, Forua, this person, according to the prime minster, did come from outside of the country.

The big question outstanding, as far as I'm concerned that I'm interesting in here, is these -- are these two people who were assisted, were they involved operationally, in which case it would be just a bigger -- certainly a bigger terrorist effort that had some many coordination. Well, thanks very much to both of, Foria Younis and Paul Spoonley. I appreciate it.

SPOONLEY: Thank you, thank you.

GORANI: And still to come, we'll look at the suspect's social media presence and how neither authorities nor the companies were able to spot or stop him. We'll be right back.


GORANI: The 28-year-old Australian gunman who was suspected of slaughtering 49 people in Christchurch has been charged with murder and is expected to be court any time now. Speaking minutes ago, the prime minster said he'd not been on any watch list. And while he had a small arsenal of weapons, he did in fact have a valid gun license.

Let's get to reporter, Sophie Walsh, who is in Christchurch. She's outside the Al Noor Mosque where people have been laying flowers, paying tribute to the victims.

[17:20:12] SOPHIE WALSH, NINE NEWS REPORTER: Yeah. And that pile of flowers is building by the minute. We are seeing a steady stream of locals come down here to the main road that heads into the Al Noor Mosque this morning laying flowers. One of the women I spoke to said that her garden is a place of healing for her, which is why she brought down a big bunch.

There's a message that they want to sent the Muslim community, the people here, that they are with them, that they are in this together. They're also in absolute disbelief that this has happened in their beautiful, beautiful city.

I'm not sure whether you can see, but police are currently undertaking a line search. They have come here this morning armed with metal detectors and they're scouring every square inch of the main road that lead towards the Al Noor mosque.

We know that 41 people have died inside that mosque yesterday. The death toll at the moment stands at 49, but we are expecting that to rise. We have dozens of people currently in hospitals in Christchurch receiving treatment for gunshot wounds.

In terms of how these attacks took place, the first happened at the Al Noor Mosque at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. It was Friday prayer time. There were about 300 worshippers inside the mosque. What they weren't counting on was a 28-year-old Australian and self-proclaimed white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, who had parked his car outside the mosque. He had laden it with ammunition, with semi-automatic guns. He also strapped a camera to his head and then he stormed the mosque.

Survivors have described it as a sustained attack. It went for about 20 minutes at one point. The gunman left the premises to reload and went back in. He cornered them herded them into the corners, and then opened fire. Keep in mind because this was prayer time, a lot of worshippers were on their knees. So, once they were -- once this gunman stormed the mosque, there was no chance they were going get away.

GORANI: All right, thanks very much Sophie Walsh there outside the Al Noor Mosque, one of the two sites of the terrorist attack in Christchurch that killed 49 people.

Now, as the reporter on the ground was mentioning, the attacks appear to have been live streamed on social media, at least one of them. That livestream and that video has since been removed, and police are asking people not to share it. Facebook says that it polices its platform but how does something like that slip through? Samuel Burke has more.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: It is truly a vicious cycle, not only was the attacker influenced by social media evident from the manifesto he linked to on Twitter. The fact that a body camera was used to broadcast live in Facebook shows that social media was a part of the attacker's planning.

Now, Facebook says it quickly took down the original video. We don't know if quickly meant during the 17 minutes that it was broadcast live on Facebook or if it was a long time after the video was already available for many to see.

Plus many many hours after the attack, the video could still be found on major social media platforms. In fact, it was shared by a Twitter account with nearly 700,000 followers. Now, you'll hear don't share the video online, but even just watching it spreads the recording on the Internet, that's because algorithms count how many people are watching and then show it to more and more users.

And it is troubling that some TV news outlets even showed the raw video and that confuses the algorithms which should be automatically taking the video down once it's flood. That's because when it sees logos and news graphics from the media organization, that tells the algorithm that this is something that could journalistically sound so then we have to wait for a human moderator to come down and take the video away.

Now, if you look at this Facebook page posted long after the attack, it warns about graphic content but simply has a video button that says, uncover to click and see it. For its part, Facebook says, quote, "New Zealand police alert us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter's Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video. We're also removing any praise or support for the crime and shooter or shooters as soon as we are aware."

Clearly not fast enough on a platform with billions of users and billions in revenue. I'm Samuel Burke, back to you.

GORANI: Thanks, Samuel. Just ahead on CNN, the Muslim world says Islamophobia is to blame for the Christchurch attacks. Find out what Muslims want to see done in response.

[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) GORANI: Islamophobia and right-wing extremist views are being largely blamed for the Christchurch mosque attacks. Majority of Muslim countries have condemned the incident obviously. In Istanbul, Turkey, people gathered to voice their anger and pray for those killed. And our Arwa Damon is there.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There has been so much shock at every level here in the region and widespread condemnation from just about anyone who you will talk to. In Turkey, following Friday prayers, in Istanbul at one of the main mosques, people held a commemoration, something of a funeral in absentia, for those who have perished in that horrific New Zealand attack.

And Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had some pretty pointed comments saying that this was by and large a result of rising Islamophobia. He said that Islamophobia has long been watched and even encouraged in the world and now after the attack has crossed the line from individual harassment to resulting in mass murder.

And then he went on to try to urge nations to come together, calling on the entire world, and especially western countries, he said to take measures against these types of events, which threatens all of mankind. And that was a sentiment that we heard from normal people that we were just talking to.

A cabdriver was telling me that as heartbroken and horrified as he was over all of this, he also went on to emphasize that people should not allow this kind of hatred, these kinds of horrific attacks to foment even further division, because whether it's terrorist organizations or whether it's individuals, whether it's a result of Islamophobia or rising anti-immigration rhetoric or anti any sort of religion that's out there, there is so much hatred that all of us, as individuals, have a duty or responsibility to try to stand against to prevent this kind of violence from taking police once more.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani. A quick check of our headlines after the break.