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Mar 15 2019

Christchurch attack inspired by hatred of Turkey - Turkish politicians

The terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, dominated the agenda in Turkey on Friday, with media outlets giving the shootings widespread coverage and Turkish politicians linking it to a global surge of anti-Turkish sentiment and Islamophobia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was named as a target in the “manifesto” published online by Brenton Tarrant before he carried out the attack, referred to the attack for a second time on Friday during a rally in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep.

The gunman had targeted Erdoğan, Turkey, and the whole Muslim world, the president said, referring to sections in Tarrant’s manifesto calling for the “reconquest” of Turkey’s European territories.

Erdoğan went on to link the attack to the local elections on March 31, for which the president has been involved in a furious campaign in recent weeks.

“As Muslims we will not bow our heads, but we will never fall to the level of these villains. Are you ready to send a message to the enemies of Islam and Turkey on March 31?” Erdoğan called out to the crowd in Gaziantep.

Ömer Çelik, the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said the motivation for the shooting that left 49 people dead in Christchurch was linked to what he described as a “political Russian doll” of enmity towards Muslims.

“On the top layer is animosity to Erdoğan, then the doll inside is animosity towards Turkey. At the base is animosity towards Islam,” Çelik said.

The AKP spokesman said the attack had been encouraged by a rising wave of racism and anti-semitism in which media outlets and politicans had played a significant role. This, he said, also amounted to a danger to democracy in Europe.

“We’ve warned politicians in Europe and the far-right many times not to base their politics on Islam and racism. We said this would bring the entire world to a terrible place,” said Çelik.

On Friday evening reports emerged indicating that the attacker, whose manifesto included a section titled “to turks”, may have spent a significant period of time in Turkey.

BBC Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen quoted a “senior Turkish official” as saying Tarrant had travelled to Turkey multiple times and spent an extended period of time in the country.

British newspaper the Daily Mail reported that Tarrant had travelled extensively after making money from an investment in Bitcoin, including to Pakistan.

Turkish state-broadcaster TRT World said he had stayed in Turkey for 43 days during visits in 2016.

According to gzt.com, Tarrant visited Turkey both before the coup attempt in July in that year and after. The Turkish news site said in his most recent visit to Turkey, Tarrant had entered illegally from Bulgaria.

Turkish pro-government media sources report that his meetings in Turkey are being investigated by the Turkish authorities.

Throughout Friday Turkish television channels broadcast footage from the attack, which Tarrant broadcast live on his Facebook page.

The decision to broadcast the footage uncensored drew sharp criticism, as did pro-AKP satirical magazine Misvak’s response to the attack.

In a tweet headed “this is how history is written,” Misvak posted an illustration by cartoonist Şahin Güneş showing an assault rifle covered in writing referencing Ottoman sultans, military leaders and conquests.

The illustration was a response to the dates and phrases the attacker wrote on his ammunition clips, some of which referred to historic victories by European states over the Ottoman Empire.