• Toby Irwin

Christchurch Exemplifies Political Terrorism

Almost a decade after an armed gunman killed a police officer in Napier, initiating a siege for more than 40 hours, another incident has returned to New Zealand. At 13:40 local time on the 15th of March, a number of perpetrators attacked two Mosques in Christchurch. Currently there is reported to be 49 fatalities, with as many as four arrests though it is believed that one of those arrested is not in confirmed connection to the case. Two car bombs were also located, though have been defused by the Armed Forces.

A number of points are of interest. The gunmen were said to be promoting a far-right extremist ideology that was anti-immigration and, more crucially, anti-Islam. The first thing to note, then, is that the term of terrorism is one that can be disputed and fundamentally one that means much more than the traditional connection to Islamic Terrorism that it is often associated with. Indeed, ideological, political terrorism is on the rise around the world, much of it promoted as a reaction from Islamic terrorism. In a sense, it seems the two seem to act as catalysts for each other. If we look at the top ten perpetrator groups around the world, seven are Islamic extremists and the other three are far-left militant groups. This of course omits the very important point that many ‘lone wolf’ attacks can and are associated to far-right ideology, though are of course omitted from perpetrator group statistics.

The second point worth mentioning is how the gunman in Christchurch used a headcam to live-stream the attack online to Facebook, where he identified himself as Brendon Tarrant and set out his justifications for the attacks. His manifesto was published online, though alongside the videos have since been removed by Facebook and the Police. This is indicative of the purposes of terrorist attacks. So often they are used in a communicative fashion to transmit a wider message beyond the immediate targets. Consequently, attacks such as this are fundamentally political, and the actions connected intrinsically to the implications. Attacks like this hold the intention of instilling fear in a wider population with the hope of enacting indirect political reform.

A key point of interest will be to watch the response from the government in Wellington and the security services. Until then, thoughts and condolences remain with the people of New Zealand and Christchurch.




At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a second year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying Modern History and International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK defence strategy and foreign policy.

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