Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist accused of carrying out the massacre of 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been described in the media as a "lone wolf" terrorist. Investigators now suspect the 28-year-old former personal trainer may have connections to shadowy, far-right-wing groups in Europe — meaning that the horrific mass murder of Muslim worshippers may have had an "international dimension," Britain's Independent reported late on Friday night.
In a 73-page online "manifesto" filled with racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, titled "The Great Replacement," an author identifying himself as Tarrant says that he began planning his terror attack in 2017, following a visit to Europe.
Tarrant apparently spent several years traveling abroad in his early and mid-20s, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report. Tarrant was employed as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in Grafton, New South Wales, Australia, from 2009 to 2011. He left the job to travel through Europe.
"I worked for a short time before making some money investing in Bitconnect, then used the money from the investment to travel," Tarrant claims in his manefesto.
Bitconnect was what Cryptocurrency News called "a fraudulent cryptocurrency" that was in reality a Ponzi scheme. Bitconnect closed down in 2018, largely as a result of the fraud allegations.According to the Independent report, intelligence agencies in Australia and New Zealand, cooperating with their overseas counterparts, have traced the movements of a man using the name Brenton Tarrant though "Europe, as well as the Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, bordering Kashmir, the Wakhan Corridor into Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang region of China."
Tarrant also appears to have visited Turkey at least twice, according to report by that country's TRT broadcasting network.
"Our initial assessment is that the perpetrator of today's heinous terror attack in Christchurch, traveled to Turkey multiple times and spent an extended period of time in the country," a senior Turkish official, whose name was not given, told TRT on Friday.
Tarrant is believed to have appeared in Turkey in 2016, first from March 17 to March 20, and then several months later for a much longer stay, from September 13 to October 25, according to the TRT report.
Investigators in Bulgaria also said that Tarrant appeared in their country in 2018, staying from November 9 to November 25, according to the TRT report. Tarrant gave the purpose of his visit as his desire to "to visit historical sites and study the history of the Balkan country." But investigators there are now attempting to determine if he had other motives to travel to the country.
Over recent years, Bulgaria has seen a dramatic rise in far-right extremist groups and political organizations, according to the Reuters news agency.