In the years before Brenton Harrison Tarrant allegedly carried out the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history, the Australian citizen claims to have traveled abroad extensively — visiting the Balkans, Western Europe, Pakistan, Turkey and, even, North Korea.
In the 74-page manifesto allegedly published by the 28-year-old on social media, he acknowledges that those experiences were overwhelmingly positive. “The varied cultures of the world greeted me with warmth and compassion, and I very much enjoyed nearly every moment I spent with them,” he wrote.
Still, some of the 50 people he allegedly killed or 50 more he injured on Friday were from the very countries he allegedly had traveled through — including Turkey and Pakistan.
Tarrant’s apparently unusual travel history has come under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the attack.
In the manifesto, he described how it was on a trip to western Europe in 2017 that he first “dramatically changed” his views on immigration — an experience that appears to have led to his radicalization. On that trip, he traveled through France, Portugal, and elsewhere, he wrote, and was horrified by a truck attack in Stockholm around that time that left a young girl dead.
His fury grew, he wrote, as he observed the 2017 French elections. In the document he published, he lashed out against immigration to France in particular, claiming there were so many immigrants “the french people were often in a minority themselves.”
He also mentions visits to Iceland, Poland, New Zealand, Argentina and Ukraine. Bulgarian officials confirmed on Friday that Tarrant had traveled there in November 2018, flying into the capital of Sofia by way of Dubai and later driving to Hungary. Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said Tarrant spent around a week in the Balkan nation and that prosecutors are now probing whether he visited as a tourist “or if he had other objectives.”
Bulgarian officials also said he traveled through Bosnia, Montengreo, Croatia, and Serbia in December 2016. In the live-stream of the attack on Friday, a Serb nationalist song could be heard playing through his car speakers.
On Saturday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that the suspect had traveled internationally, including trips to New Zealand.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said that Bulgaria expresses its “deepest condolences and do not want Bulgaria, which is an ethnically tolerant country, to be associated in any way with this horrible and unjustifiable act,” according to Bulgarian news agency BTA.
A senior Turkish official told CNN that he also traveled to Turkey more than once. He “spent an extended period of time in the country,” the official told CNN. A Turkish official told the AP that they are investigating “the suspect’s movements and contacts within the country.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of the high-profile targets Tarrant mentions in his manifesto, in addition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Photos published in Australian news outlets show him posing in front of the Samjiyon Grand Monument on a trip to North Korea. And the New York Times reported that a man with Tarrant’s name visited Pakistan in October.
A hotel manager in Pakistan said he was “nature-loving,” and a different hotel owner said he stayed with a group of backpackers for a few nights. “He was normal and polite during his stay,” Syed Israr Hussain, who owns Osho Thang hotel, told the Times. “There was nothing out of the ordinary.”