Muslim groups in New Zealand have said the country’s security agencies downplayed the threat of a possible terror attack and misinformed the public in the period leading up to the deadly Christchurch terror attacks.
The Federation of Islamic Associations publicly released its submission to the Royal Commission investigating the Christchurch mosque terror attacks and said New Zealand’s Muslim communities were vulnerable following increasing terror attacks overseas.
Two consecutive mass shootings occurred at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayers on March 15 2019. The gunman, Australian Brenton Tarrant, killed 51 people and injured 40.
“We knew we were vulnerable to such an attack. We did not know who, when, what, where or how. But we knew. Our security narrative was true. The NZIC’s [New Zealand Intelligence Community] official security was inaccurate, and misinformed New Zealand,” the report stated, according to the New Zealand Herald.
The mosque attack highlighted “systemic disfunction” in some government agencies because they didn’t consider the threat of a terror attack on Muslim communities, it said.
New Zealand’s intelligence community failed to anticipate or plan for the terror attack because of an “inappropriate concentration of, or priority setting for, counter-terrorism resources on other perceived terrorism threats.”
The federation’s report also stated the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet didn’t adequately monitor possible risks.
“DPMC … did not … assess domestic and external risks of national security significance and coordinate policy advise and policy making to ensure that risks are managed appropriately,” the report stated.
The report also pointed to the lack of diversity in the country’s intelligence network.
The federation claimed Muslim communities were left “defenceless” because of the “systemic failures over decades to recruit, develop, and promote ethnically and religiously diverse staff that reflect the changing demographics, values, experiences and perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
The federation also claimed the terrorist would never have obtained a firearms license if officers had followed proper procedure, because his two referees did not meet police’s own criteria.
The federation also believed if police had properly carried out background checks on the gunman, he wouldn’t have obtained the license and would have been on their radar as a potential threat.
“New Zealand’s intelligence community and police could and should have known about the Christchurch terrorist because of his extremist behaviours online and offline, and monitored him closely for signs of intent and capability of perpetrating or financing a terrorist attack, whether in New Zealand or overseas, and the impact and immediacy of the potential attack.”
The Royal Commission’s report into the terrorist attack has been submitted to the government and will be shown to the families of the victims and survivors of the shooting before it is released publicly. The government expects this will happen before Christmas.