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Mosque terrorist may have targeted New Zealand because it's so safe

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By Alexander Smith, Caroline Radnofsky, Linda Givetash and Vladimir Banic

The main suspect accused of carrying out a massacre in two New Zealand mosques Friday was described by officials as a “right-wing extremist terrorist,” and appeared to post a lengthy manifesto before the attack detailing his white-supremacist worldview.

Authorities charged a 28-year-old Australian national with murder after dozens of people were killed during Friday prayers in the city of Christchurch.

Police sources told NBC News’ Australian partner Channel 7 that the suspect’s name is Brenton Tarrant.

Three other people have been detained although authorities said it was unclear how they related to the incident. None of the them were on any terrorism watchlists, officials said.

Although not confirmed by authorities, a 74-page manifesto titled “The Great Replacement” was posted online beforehand and matched several known details about the suspect and the attack.

It contains a sprawling array of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and white-supremacist references, repeating common far-right talking points. It also condemns attempts to restrict firearms in the U.S. and pledges to start an American race war.

The author said he had been planning the attack for two years and moved from Australia to New Zealand to plan and train. Though New Zealand was not the original target for the assault, he said he chose it because of its image as one of the safest countries in the world.

Paul Spoonley, a professor at New Zealand’s Massey University, said that the far-right has “been building for some time but it’s still quite a minor part of the political spectrum in New Zealand.”

Speaking to Britain’s Sky News, he said: “Somehow we thought we were exempt from it but that innocence has been completely blown away today.”

Rather than focusing on only domestic grievances, white-supremacist nationalists are increasingly taking their cues from incidents around the world, championing international supporters of their cause and condemning what they see as injustices around the world, Spoonley added.

Anti-immigrant far-right extremism has a long history in Australia and in recent years its focus has shifted to opposing Muslims, according to Mark Briskey, a senior lecturer in criminology at Murdoch University in Perth.

These views have seeped into the political mainstream, echoed and amplified by public figures such as Australian Senator Fraser Anning who last year invoked the term “final solution” in a call to restrict Muslim immigration.

Briskey said such messages “give a permission for people who may be attracted to this narrative to undertake further acts of vilification against Muslims, and in the extreme, with violence.”

The manifesto posted before the New Zealand attack references the victims of a terror attack in Stockholm and racial tensions in the Balkans.

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