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New Zealand Mosque Attacks Suspect Appears in Court; Suspected Shooter Purportedly Posted Anti-Muslim Manifesto; Interview with Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council, on Rise of White Nationalism; Facebook Alerted to Suspected Shooter's Live Stream by Police. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2019 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN's continuing breaking news coverage of the terror attack in New Zealand. I'm Cyril Vanier.

The 28-year-old man suspected of killing 49 people and wounding dozens more in a terrorist attack on Friday on two mosques in New Zealand made his first court appearance Saturday. Brenton Tarrant stood silently as he was charged with one count of murder. Police say there are more charges; his next court appearance is in April.

Police say Tarrant resisted arrest, that he had explosives in his vehicle and officers put themselves in a great deal of danger to keep the community safe. New Zealand's prime minister gave more details about the arrest.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I want to acknowledge firstly that the police responded immediately to the call that they received relating to the attack. The individual charged was in custody 36 minutes from receiving the first call.

The offender was mobile; there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack.


VANIER: And we've now got information on one of the victims. Haji Daoud Nabi was born in Afghanistan and moved to Christchurch in 1977 as an asylum seeker. He was apparently running about 10 minutes late for the service and the attack was going on when he arrived at the mosque.

People across the country are trying to come to grips with what happened. Vigils are being held, like this one here in Christchurch. Songs, prayers and tears. Strangers are leaving flowers and messages of support and love for the victims and their families and we want to read one of them.

A heart-shaped card left near one of the mosques, it reads, "We are all one. We are all with you." CNN's Alexandra Field has more from Christchurch.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Crime tape surrounding one of the mosques where more than 40 people were killed, seven more killed in a second mosque and now more than 40 still in the hospital, including children as young as 2 and 4 years old.

The community of Christchurch, New Zealand, left shocked and stunned by what's been called a terror attack by the nation's prime minister. Behind me, this pile of flowers being left by people who are here to mourn, here to grieve; a sign above those flowers, reading, "This is not New Zealand."

Certainly this has shaken the community. We've heard witnesses talk about hearing 10 or 15 minutes' worth of gun bursts coming from a mosque just down the street here. Parents who have arrived at the vigil talk about the fear that they had, their children in lockdown in schools, bringing their children out here now to try to make them understand or to help them understand what has happened, how it has changed the city and really this country.

The prime minister already vowing that gun laws will change. As for the man suspected for being behind it, he was in Christchurch District Court, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian and brought into a courthouse that was shut down to the public because of security concerns.

Escorted by three police officers, armed with Tasers, he didn't speak in court. He was charged with just one count of murder, which comes with a maximum penalty of life in prison. Authorities saying he will face more charges.

They say they are not looking for additional suspects at the moment; two others remain in custody. Investigators are still trying to determine what links they could have to the attack -- in Christchurch, Alexandra Field, CNN.


VANIER: Journalist Chelsea Daniels is a reporter with "Newstalk ZB" and she joins us by phone from Auckland,

Chelsea, tell us a little bit more from that court appearance. In those moments you look for a clue, you look at the person and see whether you can glean anything from them as to why they did what they did.

CHELSEA DANIELS, "NEWSTALK ZB": It is just a harrowing situation we have here in New Zealand, he has been remanded in custody. He smirked at the media as he stood in the dock and he had a cut on his upper lip. This must be something to do with he resisted arrest and he was silent throughout the whole hearing.

And looked at media and the public gathering in the eye, a very disturbing individual. He came in, in a white boiler suit, no shoes; his hands --


DANIELS: -- shackled and held together. Just terrifying to know that this one man had the intention of causing so much harm and did indeed cause so much harm to the Christchurch community and the wider New Zealand community.

VANIER: And he would've continued if he hadn't been stopped and the video we saw of him in court blurred on the judge's orders.

Two other people are in custody. What do we know about them?

DANIELs: We don't know anything of those people thus far and there aren't any indication as whether they were directly linked with the attack. We don't know what their part to play is, if any part to play, in this horrific instance. We will be keeping you updated as to what happens there.

VANIER: There are still people who are fighting for their lives here.

What can you tell us about the injured?

DANIELS: We've only just had word that 36 people remain in Christchurch District Hospital after the gunman opened fire. We know that those range in age from 2 years old all the way to people in their 60s. One child has been transferred to Auckland Starship Hospital in a critical condition and 11 are fighting for their lives in ICU in critical condition as well.

VANIER: And prayers go out to them. We just hope that the death toll doesn't get any heavier.

Did New Zealanders think they had a far right extremism problem until now?

DANIELS: No, and this is a question that I've been asked time and time again from international media. And the answer is no. Nobody knew or thought that something like this would happen on our shores.

We are used to turning on the world news and watching it from afar, things in the U.K. and U.S., Europe but nothing -- we did not know that New Zealand's name was going to be added to that list. This is the first terror attack in our history, the first major gun massacre in our history all at once.

So people are not prepared. We're prepared for things like natural disasters but nothing manmade like this.

VANIER: I want to share a little story with you. A couple years ago I was in Paris where I come from; I was a reporter. I had covered international news for years and when the terror attacks hit in Paris and I was -- I found myself covering that.

And it was a very, very different feeling to be covering that in your home country. And over 100 people were slaughtered.

So if you can just put your journalist cap aside for a second, how do you and yours feel, looking at this and covering this today?

DANIELS: Putting everything aside, it is terrifying because New Zealand is renowned for being some of the kindest, open and most warm people on the planet. We open our arms to people who want to come here and settle here and then call New Zealand their home.

So something like this to happen in our country -- and it's horrible to think that our country was chosen because of this, because this is a safe place, it is renowned as a safe place and a kind place. And I think everyone is hurting quite a bit here.

VANIER: And one of the messages that was left outside the mosque that I found the most touching was one that read, "We are so sorry that you were not safe here."

And I think that also sums up the tone that the prime minister has set and echoes what you said, that people normally would be safe in New Zealand. That's always been the belief.

DANIELS: Absolutely. And a majority of these people would have chosen New Zealand as their home and that is something that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said herself yesterday. And that is why people here are mortified that this has happened here.

Also I also have family in Australia that I spoke to today and they're saying that the person behind this massacre, behind these attacks, is an Australian born man.

VANIER: Yes. Chelsea Daniels, it has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

DANIELS: No worries.

VANIER: And our Randi Kaye takes a look at how the tragedy in Christchurch unfolded.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1:40 pm in New Zealand, in the Al Noor Mosque in the community of Christchurch is under attack in the middle of Friday prayers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody just run toward the back doors to save themselves.


KAYE: The shooting lasts 10 or 15 minutes. At the first mosque --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just continuously shooting and coming inside slowly because he was killing all the people who are in the entrance.

KAYE: Shortly after 2:00 pm, schools in the area are on lockdown. Soon after, residents are told to stay indoors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plus, we hide behind the cars and under the cars and then when we see the firing is still going, we try to jump the fence.

KAYE: In all the chaos, desperation and determination to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I smashed the window, just jumping and people waiting outside, they run away from the mosque. I say what's going on? They say just run away.

KAYE: The shooter appears to fire randomly, both inside and outside the mosque. Before he leaves he shoots a woman on the sidewalk from a distance and then moves closer to deliver the fatal shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking that he must run out of bullets, you know. So what I did was basically waiting for that and praying to God, oh, God, please, now, let this guy run out of bullets.

KAYE: At a second mosque, this man says he saw someone grab the shooter's gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one young guy who usually takes care of mosque and helps in parking and other stuff. So he saw an opportunity and pounced over him and grabbed his gun.

REPORTER: Grabbed the gun from his hands as he was shooting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grabbed the gun -- yes.

KAYE: Police go into lockdown. By the time it's over, 49 people are dead.

Dozens, including children with gunshot wounds, are admitted to Christchurch Hospital for treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to the head and face, arms, leg and torso and soft tissue injuries.

KAYE: Investigators recover weapons at both locations, plus two improvised explosive devices attached to a vehicle. Police arrest a 28-year-old man now charged with murder. Two others are arrested for suspected weapons possession. None of them had been on any security watch list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had -- no agency had any information about these people.

KAYE: Long after the shooting is over, some from inside the mosque still aren't answering their phones, leaving loved ones to wonder, are they alive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried the mosque and saw police outside, so we've just been waiting here just to see if our son is all right but he's not answering his phone.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


VANIER: After the break, the motives of the alleged New Zealand gunman laid out in black and white his so-called manifesto and its hateful propaganda.




VANIER: The man suspected of murdering the man suspected of murdering 49 --


VANIER: -- Muslim worshippers in New Zealand laid out his hateful views in a propaganda document he apparently posted online. Some 70 typed pages full of toxic ideas, memes, references to white nationalist terrorists. Alex Marquardt explains what's inside that document.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a diatribe filled with hate, anger and vows of revenge, 87 neatly formatted pages of ranting about immigrants, minorities and Muslims. More than 16,000 words that the 28-year old who says his name is Brenton Tarrant posted on social media shortly before the attack.

The attacker calls immigrants "invaders" and says immigration must be crushed and, like other white nationalists, he falsely claimed there's a genocide of white people underway.

It's the kinds of toxic message heard in Charlottesville and from the Charleston massacre shooter, Dylann Roof. The New Zealand shooter referenced Roof's attack in his manifesto. Norwegian mass murderer Andres Brevik, who killed 77, mostly children, is held up as an inspiration.

ARDERN: There are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The U.S. president is also referenced one, calling President Trump "a symbol of renewed white identity" though he says he doesn't consider Trump a leader. The suspect claims to not belong to any organization and decided to carry out the shooting, which he admits is terrorism, on his own.

An attack he said that he'd been thinking about for two years and chose the targeted mosques three months ago. He expresses no remorse for those he planned to kill, even the children.

With white nationalism growing in the U.S. and in Europe, the gunman points to a number of global events that fueled his hate, including a terror attack in Sweden's capital in 2017, when an asylum seeker plowed a truck into a crowd, killing five.

MARQUARDT: New Zealand is usually a calm and peaceful place. That's why he chose to carry out that attack there, to show that nowhere is safe.

As for the choice of the weapons used in the slaughter, guns, it was made specifically to rile up the debate here in this country, the United States, over the Second Amendment -- Alexander Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: After officials revealed the suspected gunman held white nationalist beliefs, president Donald Trump was asked if he thought the racist ideology posed a rising threat to the world.

His response?

The group is too small to be considered dangerous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. I think it is 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 is certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.


VANIER: All right, Salam Al-Marayati joins me. He's the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council here in the United States, joins us now live from Los Angeles.

How do you respond to what the president said?

SALAM AL-MARAYATI, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Well, absolutely, he is wrong. In fact in 2017, the Trump administration rescinded a grant that was actually being offered by the Obama administration, his predecessor, of over 400,000 dollars for a group called Life after Hate, which was supposed to be involved in prevention, intervention and rehabilitation of white supremacists.

So obviously the president does not consider this to be an issue; whereas, I think we all see from Charleston to Pittsburgh to Quebec and so many other areas, Oak Creek, that it has become a major threat to our national security.

And our law enforcement should have this as a priority in their national security policy. And there needs to be some more effort, in terms of intervening, with these individuals who are being radicalized and going down that path of violence.

VANIER: The White House communications director had to deal with criticism of the president's own account of his answer to that question. Here's what she said.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, ASSISTANT TO THE U.S. PRESIDENT: It's outrageous to even make that connection between this deranged individual that committed this evil crime, to the president, who has repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism and has made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack. And we are there to support and stand with the people of New Zealand.


VANIER: All right, so the White House wants no part of this criticism. They say we have offered messages of support, don't trace any of this back to us in any way, shape --


VANIER: -- or form.

AL-MARAYATI: Political rhetoric is the fuel that is sparked by radicalization. And right-wing propaganda has been spilled, through the airwaves and through social media, so that deranged people like this gentleman from New Zealand act upon it and they go and they kill innocent people while they are worshipping.

It has happened too many times. Our worship is supposed to be done with our creator at a time of serenity, at a time of tranquility, at a time seeking peace with God. And yet, you have individuals now, who are coming in and spraying bullets on these worshippers -- it has got to stop.



How do we stop this?

How do you stem the hate that fuels these acts?

AL-MARAYATI: It's the same with ISIS related terrorism, with individuals who act upon that madness, that terrorist ideology. It is the father or the mother, or the sister or the friend or the teacher that has to intervene.

So something has to be done about this. You can't just say that nobody is responsible. If there are conspiracy theories about Muslims -- and they abound through our political rhetoric today -- if nothing is being done with responsible speech to push back against the hate speech against Islam and Muslims, then I'm afraid we will have more situations like this.

And Pittsburgh was a perfect example. There are conspiracy theories against both Jews and Muslims -- and by the way, I just want to say, that there was an outpour of support from the Jewish community today. There were over 200 people in our mosque as we were praying. There were Jews and Christians and Buddhists and Hindus with us. There was law enforcement with us. That is --


VANIER: As there were Muslims standing by the Jewish community in Pittsburgh in their time of hurt and their time of need. And I'm glad you bring it up because we also have to separate the trees from the woods and understand that these minority incidents, as hurtful as they are, are minority incidents.

But you said something which I actually find a little depressing, you said you have to address the root cause of it, when I asked you how you stem the hate. And you said you have to deal with it the way we dealt with ISIS.

But in my modest opinion, Western countries in particular were not good at combating ISIS ideologies. That was not something they did well.

AL-MARAYATI: Well, they did not do well because it was heavy-handed law enforcement that was used to deal with the problem as opposed to bringing in intervention programs and rehabilitation programs. I think we need both.

At the end of the day, you're going to have to have a law enforcement strategy and you are going to have to have a strategy that empowers communities to deal with individuals that go down that path of violence.

There was no record about this guy, as was stated in your report. So it is up to the people to deal with these situations. And that means we need resources and ways to identify problems with individuals that go down that path of radicalization.

VANIER: Yes. He was posting his hateful speech on the dark corners of the Web, where you and I and most people do not want to go and have nothing to do there.


VANIER: Sorry, go ahead.

AL-MARAYATI: But I assure you, somebody knew about that. And someone should've done something about that. When you look back, you would find clues or traces, where, if someone had intervened at that time, either they would have brought that person to justice or they would've found a program to rehabilitate the person.

VANIER: And you know, that's exactly what the New Zealand prime minister has been saying, she's been saying we have to look at this and maybe divert resources in that direction.

Salam Al-Marayati, thank you so much for joining us on the show.

AL-MARAYATI: Thank you. My pleasure.

VANIER: Next on CNN NEWSROOM, social media was part of the Christchurch attack, before and even during the shooting. What can and cannot be done to keep hate off social networks?





VANIER: Politicians are asking social media to do more to stop extremism on their sites. Facebook, for its part, says it already polices its platform but video of the New Zealand shooter's attack stayed online for hours before it was pulled down. Samuel Burke has more.


SAMUEL BURKE, CNN 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 on 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.

You'll hear people say, 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 is flagged.

That's because when it sees logos and news graphics from a media organization, that tells the algorithms that this is something that could be 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 attacks, 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 alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the live stream 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 the 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.


VANIER: You've been CNN's breaking news coverage of the terror attack in New Zealand. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back in just a moment.