WELLINGTON: New Zealand security agencies were “almost exclusively” focused on the perceived threat of Islamist terrorism before a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers last year, a report into the country’s worst massacre found.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry 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 commission made no findings that these issues would have stopped the attack. But these were both failings and for that I apologise,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the report was released.
Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole in August for the attack, which left dozens injured.
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.
However, authorities were criticised for ignoring repeated warnings from the Muslim community that hate crimes against them were escalating.
The 800-page report said there was an “inappropriate concentration of resources” on the threat of 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 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.
The report said there was no plausible way Tarrant’s plans could have been detected “except by chance.”
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.