A man has been charged over a threat made online to the Linwood Islamic centre and the Al Noor mosque, the sites of the two Christchurch shootings in 2019.
The man, 27, who has not been named, is due to appear in Christchurch district court on Friday, charged with threatening to kill.
Police were alerted to “concerning communications” made on the 4chan message board earlier this week by a member of the public through the Crimestoppers line, they said. Two men were arrested on Thursday but one was later released without charge.
At a briefing on Thursday night, Canterbury district commander, Supt John Price, said police executed two search warrants that afternoon in Linwood and St Albans. The armed offenders squad assisted as a precautionary measure.
Newshub reported that armed police raided two homes after an alleged threat involving a terror attack with car bombs on the second anniversary of the mosque shootings, later this month.
Price said he could not comment on the nature or content of the threat as it was before the courts but said it was “credible enough that we took action straight away”. Police visited and searched both mosques and alerted the Muslim community shortly after learning of the posts.
“We take these matters extremely seriously and we are also working very closely with our Muslim community,” said Price. “Any threat made on our community and our people is a threat on our society and will not be tolerated.
“Any messages of hate, or people wanting to cause harm in our community, will be held to account.”
Price said no one else was being sought in relation to the alleged threat but that police would be on alert and more visible during the mosque attack memorial. He said he wanted to reassure New Zealand’s Muslim community that they could have trust and confidence in the police.
In a statement, the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand thanked the member of the public for coming forward and the police for taking quick action.
“There can be no tolerance for direct threats to people or buildings, whether these are made online or offline. We ask the public to be vigilant in reporting any such threats to authorities.
“We pray that the Muslim community in New Zealand stays safe. We know this will be a difficult time for them even without such words containing direct hostility.”
On 15 March 2019 a lone gunman shot and killed 51 worshippers at the two inner-city Christchurch mosques. In August last year, the gunman was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his crimes, which were motivated by white supremacist ideology.
Prior to the attack the gunman had posted multiple references to his plan online, was able to legally obtain a gun licence, and carried out reconnaissance missions to both mosques.
A royal commission into the shootings found that New Zealand’s security agencies had been almost exclusively focused on the threat from Islamist terrorism, and the police had failed to enforce proper checks on firearm licences. The royal commission said that despite the shortcomings, there were no failings within government agencies that would have alerted them to the imminent attack by the white supremacist.