Security expert says don't be influenced by terrorists

News 29/04/2019

Places of worship are as safe as they've ever been, according a counter-terrorism expert.

Six weeks ago an alleged white supremacist shot worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50. Earlier this month Islamic State-aligned jihadists killed five times that number in Sri Lankan churches, with unconfirmed claims it was in retaliation for the Christchurch attack.

Then on Sunday (NZ time) a teenager opened fire in a synagogue in California, immediately after uploading a manifesto to the internet citing the alleged Christchurch gunman as an inspiration. He also claimed to have burned down a mosque in the aftermath of the New Zealand attack.

"When they see someone else do something they've been thinking about for a while, it will have a motivating effect," Massey University defence and security studies lecturer told The AM Show on Monday.

But the link is probably as tenuous as that - it's a link in cyberspace.

"The San Diego attacker and the Christchurch attacker have never spoken to each other, have never met each other, if they did probably wouldn't like each other. It's a very tenuous link."

He said each of the extremists was likely to attempt something eventually, but online echo chambers may have expedited the process.

"We've basically got two or three sad individuals. There's no connection between them, but cyberspace brings them all together and gives them that notion they're part of something and their views are valid."

But the sheer number of places of worship across the world means there's little to worry about on a day-to-day basis.

It's as safe now as it ever was

"You and I are drawing a link between them because they are. We are arranging them now as if they're happening in a quick sequence, but the vast majority of places of worship right across the globe are just as safe as they always [have been]."

Security was beefed up outside mosques in the wake of the Christchurch attacks, and many Anzac Day events had to be cancelled or consolidated to ensure police could protect them all.

Dr Battersby said it pays not to be complacent, but we can't let terrorists dictate where and when believers can worship.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherely