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article imageNZ mosque attacker may have ties to Ukrainian Azov Battalion

By Ken Hanly     Mar 23, 2019 in Crime
The are possible links between the New Zealand mosque attacker Brent Tarrant and a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist white supremacist paramilitary group called the Azov Battalion.
The Azov Battalion
The Azov Battalion is described by Wikipedia in part: " In 2014, it gained notoriety after allegations emerged of torture and war crimes, as well as neo-Nazi sympathies and usage of associated symbols by the regiment itself, as seen in their logo featuring the Wolfsangel, one of the original symbols used by the German Nazi Party. In 2014, around 10-20% of the unit were neo-Nazis.[9] The U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2018 blocking military aid to Azov on the grounds of its white supremacist ideology.[10][11] At the same time, members of the regiment come from 22 countries and are of various backgrounds.[12]"
The Daily Telegraph claims that the Azov Battalion's extremist politics and professional English social media pages have attracted foreign fighters. This includes people from Brazil, Ireland, Italy, UK, France, the US, Greece, Sweden, Spain and Russia.
The Azov Battalion appears to be emerging as a critical node in the global right-wing violent extremist movement (RWE) as shown by the presence of foreign fighters from numerous nations who are trained in the battalion. The group retains its own Western Outreach Office used to help recruit and attract foreign fighters. The foreigners travel to train and connect with the group. Operatives from the Outreach Office travel around Europe to promote the Battalion and its white supremacy ideology.
The group has also established youth camps, sporting recreation centers, and far-right education programs.
Tarrant's connection to the Azov Battalion
Tarrant's manifesto claims he visited the Ukraine during his many travels abroad. The flak jacket that Tarrant wore during his assault has the Wolf's angel symbol one of the early symbols of the Nazi party and used by the Azov Battalion. Tarrant claimed that he was also in touch with the Anders Breivik the Norwegian terrorist. He also visited sites where there were historic battles between Christians and Muslims no doubt prompted by and reinforcing his anti-Muslim views. It remains to be seen if there is evidence of further ties between Tarrant and the Azov Battalion.
The phenomenon of foreign fighters
While foreign fighters are often associated with jihadists such as ISIS, foreign fighters exist across many different ideologies and groups. There are foreign fighters assisting the Kurds for example in Syria. Shia militants travel from several countries to fight in Syria. The outreach of the Azov Battalion shows that now RWE networks are recruiting fighters worldwide to spread their cause.
Globalization of the RWE movement
The Azov Battalion is forging links with other RWE groups and has hosted visits from ultra-nationalist organizations such as members of the Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.) in the US and also British National Action from the UK. Several R.A.M. members in the US were recently indicted by the FBI for their role in violently attacking counter-protesters during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA in August of 2017
Tarrant was not just a lone actor but someone who is the product of a broad network of right-wing violent extremists. If the evidence does ultimately show that Tarrant actually went to the Ukraine to train with like-minded people than this might be the first terrorist act of a foreign fighter trained by a right-wing terrorist group. Tarrant was not a New Zealand citizen. The international community needs to realize existence and danger of these networks.
More about Brent Tarrant, Azov Battalion, rightwing extremist movements
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