Christchurch shootings: First funerals for victims of mosque attacks


The first funerals are taking place for victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings that left 50 people dead.

Volunteers have travelled to Christchurch to assist with the burial process and support victims’ families.

Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be buried as soon as possible, but the burials have been delayed by the scale of the identification process.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist, has been charged with murder.

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Christchurch city officials issued strict guidance to the media ahead of Wednesday’s funerals and requested that the families be left alone.

“The body will be brought on site, taken to a private marquee that has been set up as a family area,” a council spokeswoman said.

“After a short time for prayers, family and friends will carry the body to the grave site where it will be laid to rest,” she added.

All bodies to be released on Wednesday

Police on Wednesday named six of the victims of the shootings at the Al Noor mosque and hoped to release all 50 bodies to the families by the end of the day. All post-mortem examinations were complete, police said.

Yet some families expressed frustration with the delayed identification process. Mohamed Safi, 23, whose father Matiullah Safi died at the Al Noor mosque, complained about the lack of information.

He told AFP news agency: “They are just saying they are doing their procedures… Why do I not know what you are going through to identify the body?”

In a statement on Tuesday, the police said: “[We] are acutely aware of frustrations by families associated with the length of time required for the identification process following Friday’s terror attack.

“We are doing all we can to undertake this work as quickly as possible and return the victims to their loved ones.”

New Zealand’s immigration service said it was processing visas for the families of the victims seeking to come from abroad to attend funerals.

New Zealanders hand in guns

Following an appeal by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, some New Zealanders have begun handing in weapons.

John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton, posted on Twitter he had given his semi-automatic rifle to police to be destroyed.

His post drew a lot of support but also a wave of abusive messages to his Facebook page from many gun owners, particularly in the US where the pro-gun lobby is particularly strong.

New Zealand police said they were still gathering information on how many weapons had been handed in, Radio New Zealand reported.

Ms Ardern on Monday said the nation’s gun laws would be reformed in the wake of the attack. Details of the plans are expected within days.

The country’s hunting lobby on Tuesday said it backed reforms, calling for a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.

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On Wednesday, Ms Ardern visited Cashmere High School, which lost pupils Sayyad Milne and Hamza Mustafa, and former student Tariq Omar, in the attack.

She asked students to help her rid New Zealand of racism and reiterated her call “never to mention the perpetrator’s name… never remember him for what he did”.

School Principal Mark Wilson said the impact of the attack had been “particularly cruel and tough” for pupils, staff and parents.

Why have volunteers travelled to Christchurch?

The bodies of some of the victims were already being washed and prepared in a Muslim ritual process on Tuesday, partly with the help of volunteers who had come from across the country and overseas.

Javed Dadabhai, a volunteer from Auckland, told AFP that the scale of the attack inspired him to help.

“Christchurch is a small community, so… when you see a loss of 50 people, you really need to come down and help in whichever you can,” he said.

A number of volunteers have also been visiting a family support centre near the Al Noor Mosque where the attack happened.

“This is a hard time but we have to be strong and faithful and believe that we are going to overcome this,” volunteer Mohammed Bilal told AFP.

He added: “People come here to help each other and do something good for our society.”

What has the prime minister said?

Ms Ardern addressed a special meeting in parliament on Tuesday, where she vowed never to say the name of the gunman.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety – that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” she said in an emotional address.

Ms Ardern assured MPs that the attacker would “face the full force of the law”.

The prime minister also called on social media platforms to do more to combat terror, after the gunman in Christchurch live-streamed his attack on Facebook.

The social media company said the video was viewed fewer than 200 times during the live broadcast, and about 4,000 times in total before it was removed. Facebook also said it removed more than 1.5 million copies of the video in the first 24 hours.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

Fifty people lost their lives in the shootings at two mosques in the city.

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