Man charged after Christchurch anniversary threat to mosques

Fifty-one people murdered and 40 injured in March 2019 terror attack – the worst in New Zealand's history

FILE - In this March 17, 2019, file photo,  police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where one of two mass shootings occurred. A New Zealand man is facing criminal charges after allegedly posting online threats against two Christchurch mosques that were the sites of a terrorist attack that left 51 people dead.
Police on Thursday, March 4, 2021, arrested the 27-year-old man and charged him with threatening to kill. If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)
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New Zealand police have charged a man with threatening to kill after he posted messages online about attacking mosques days before the anniversary of the Christchurch terror attack.

The 27-year-old was arrested on Thursday and is due to appear in Christchurch District Court on Friday.

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said he anticipated more charges will be considered. He said police were notified through a member of the public coming forward “a couple of days ago”, leading to an “intensive investigation” prior to the arrest.

A representative of Paparoa, a watchdog group "working against racism, hate crimes, and Islamophobia", told The National they "discovered the threats and identified who made them through old-fashioned open source intelligence techniques a couple of days ago" and alerted police.

“We were able to identify who made the threats… [this] was made easier as our researchers are embedded in local communities and online spaces,” they said.

“On the basis of the information that we found out about the person making the threat, we discovered that they were a die-hard fascist, with him repeatedly praising the fascist Christchurch terrorist and making anti-Semitic and Islamophobic remarks. From that we concluded that the threat of blowing up mosques in Christchurch with car bombs was extremely serious and we took action to ensure he could not engage in his planned terrorist attack.”

Superintendent Price told local media the threat was credible enough that police took action immediately.

“I just want to reinforce we take these matters extremely seriously and we are also working very closely with our Muslim community… Any threat made on our community and our people is a threat on our society and will not be tolerated… Any message of hate or people wanting to cause harm in our community, they will be held to account.

“Most New Zealanders want us to be united and respect the diversity of New Zealand,” he added.

Fifty-one people were murdered and  40 injured at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15, 2019, the worst terror attack in New Zealand's history.

This attack led to the establishment of the Paparoa group, their spokesperson told The National, as "a group that focused on researching and monitoring fascists [which] could work with community groups, academics and journalists to expose them".

“We want to do our part to ensure that it never happens again,” they said.

Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesman Abdigani Ali thanked police for acting promptly.

“There is no place for hate rhetoric and hate crimes in our country and every community no matter their race or beliefs should feel a sense of safety and belonging,” he said.