Christchurch: how quiet city became target for terror

Known as the garden city, Christchurch was a soft target for an attack, security experts say

Twenty-four hours after a gunman rampaged through two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch, attention was turning to why this quiet, provincial enclave became the target for New Zealand’s deadliest extremist attack – and what lured the suspect to drive more than 350km north from his home in Dunedin to carry out the attack.

There is dissonance too in the benign atmosphere of Christchurch, “the garden city”, and the grotesque horror that unfolded on Friday afternoon. It was for a long time described as “the most English city outside of England”, with its quaint gardens and picturesque gothic revival architecture. Named after Christ Church, Oxford, the city is bisected by the river Avon and in its centre stood, until the devastating 2011 earthquake, the commanding Christchurch Cathedral. The pace of life is slow, the people modest.

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