Funerals of NZ victims begin | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:28 AM, March 21, 2019

Funerals of NZ victims begin

PM urges 'united front' on social media, says Friday prayers' call for Muslims will be broadcast nationally

The bodies of victims from New Zealand's mosques mass shooting were carried in open caskets on the shoulders of mourners into a large tent at Christchurch's Memorial Park Cemetery yesterday - the first burials of the 50 victims.

The majority of victims from Friday's attack in the South Island city were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The youngest was a boy of three, born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents.

The first two victims buried, father and son Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, came from war-torn Syria.

"I cannot tell you how gutting it is...a family came here for safety and they should have been safe here," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, visiting the city for the second time since the massacre.

Wrapped in white cloth, the bodies were laid to face Makkah, and, after jenazah (funeral) prayers, were carried towards their freshly dug graves.

“Seeing the body lowered down, it was a very emotional time for me,” said Gulshad Ali, who had travelled from Auckland to attend the first funeral.

Several mounds of dirt piled high marked the site of multiple graves which will be used for New Zealand's worst mass shooting.

Hundreds gathered to mourn, some men wearing a taqiyah (skullcap), others in shalwar kameez (long tunic and trousers), while women wore hijabs and scarfs.

Heavily armed police stood watch with flowers tucked in their revolver holsters and attached to their high powered rifles.

Six victims were buried yesterday, with more expected during the week.

Ardern said this coming Friday's call to prayers for Muslims in New Zealand will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence on Friday.

"There is a desire to show support for the Muslim community as they return to mosques on Friday," she said.

The bullet-ridden Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 people died, was being cleaned and repaired for Friday prayers.

Near the mosque, members of rival gangs did a Maori haka, a powerful indigenious ceremonial performance, and a crowd of people sung New Zealand's national anthem as the sun set.

The Australian National Imams Council has called on Imams to dedicate this Friday's Khutbah (sermon) to the Christchurch mosque mass shooting.

'UNITED FRONT'

Ardern, who has vowed to tighten New Zealand's lax gun ownership laws, said yesterday the horrific events in Christchurch showed the need for a global approach to confront the dangers posed by extremists' use of social media.

"There is an argument there to be made for us to take a united front on what is a global issue," she said.

"This is not just an issue for New Zealand, the fact that social media platforms have been used to spread violence (and) material that incites violence."

New Zealand yesterday charged a second person with sharing the gruesome livestream video of the deadly attack, reported AFP.

Philip Arps, 44, who was arrested the day before, was charged with two counts of distributing objectionable material under the Films Act and was remanded in custody after appearing in Christchurch District Court.

A teenager appeared in court earlier this week on the same charge.

INTERNATIONAL PROBE

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

New Zealand's police chief said global intelligence agencies, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and those from Australia, Canada and Britain, were building up a profile of the alleged shooter, reported Reuters.

"I can assure you this is an absolute international investigation," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at a media briefing in the capital Wellington.

As of Tuesday night 21 victims had been identified, with the remainder expected to be completed by yesterday before their bodies can be released for burial, police said.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

Bush said police had to prove the cause of death to the satisfaction of the coroner and the judge handling the case.

"You cannot convict for murder without that cause of death. So this is a very comprehensive process that must be completed to the highest standard," he said.

Twenty nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

Many have had to undergo multiple surgeries due to complicated gunshot wounds. The gunman used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, with large magazines, and a shotgun.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday condemned what he called "highly offensive" comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warning that he would consider "all options" in reviewing bilateral relations.

Erdogan had said the attack was part of an assault on Turkey and Islam and warned anti-Muslim Australians would be "sent back in coffins" like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a blood-drenched World War I battle.

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