‘He will be nameless' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 20, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:40 AM, March 20, 2019

‘He will be nameless'

NZ PM vows never to give killer notoriety he craves; 6 bodies returned to families

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a sombre session of parliament with an evocative "as-salaam alaikum" message of peace to Muslims.

"He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand," Ardern pledged to grieving Kiwis yesterday, while promising that she would deprive the man, an avowed white supremacist who slaughtered 50 people in Christchurch, of the publicity he craved.

"He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety," she told assembled lawmakers of the 28-year-old Australian accused of the slaughter.

"That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless."

"I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them."

Ardern also praised the bravery of mosque worshippers, saying the nation stood with its grieving Muslim community in this "darkest of days".

Dressed in black, the 38-year-old leader opened her remarks in parliament with a symbolic gesture, repeating the greeting uttered every day across the Islamic world: "as-salaam alaikum".

She closed her address by noting that "on Friday, it will be a week since the attack, members of the Muslim community will gather for worship on that day. Let us acknowledge their grief as they do."

"Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh," she said -- "May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you too."

SIX BODIES RETURNED TO FAMILIES

The bodies of six of victims have been released to their families, New Zealand police said yesterday, but they warned only a fraction of the 50 people killed had been fully identified, with the delay angering anguished relatives.

Muslims have had their grief compounded by the failure of the authorities to return bodies to families in time for a speedy burial, as required under Islamic custom.

Police in Christchurch said only 12 of the 50 victims had been identified, and appeared to warn next of kin to brace for further delays.

"We are doing all we can to undertake this work as quickly as possible and return the victims to their loved ones," a police statement said.

"While identification may seem straightforward the reality is much more complex, particularly in a situation like this."

Javed Dadabhai, who travelled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers had been warned of a slow process.

"The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members," he told AFP.

Mohamed Safi, 23, whose father Matiullah Safi died in Al Noor mosque, pleaded for officials to let him identify his father and set a date for his burial.

"There's nothing they are offering," Safi, an Afghan refugee, said outside a family support centre.

GUN LAW DEBATE RAGES

The gunman used a semi-automatic AR-15 during the mosque shootings, police said. A New Zealand gun shop owner said the store had sold Tarrant four weapons and ammunition online between December 2017 and March 2018, but not the high-powered weapon used in the massacre.

Ardern has said she supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons and that cabinet has made in-principle decisions to change gun laws which she will announce next Monday.

While some New Zealanders have voluntarily surrendered guns, others have been buying more to beat the ban.

A gun club in the northern town of Kaitaia burned down early yesterday and police were treating the blaze as suspicious.

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition National Party, said he wanted to get details of the changes to see if there could be bipartisan support in parliament. The Nationals draw support from rural areas, where gun ownership is high.

"We know that change is required. I'm willing to look at anything that is going to enhance our safety - that's our position," Bridges told TVNZ.

A consortium of global technology firms has shared on its collective database the digital fingerprints of more than 800 versions of the video of the mass shooting.

Anyone caught sharing the massacre video in New Zealand faces a fine of up to NZ$10,000 ($6,855) or up to 14 years in jail, reported Reuters.

Facebook, the world's largest social media network, has said it removed 1.5 million videos within 24 hours of the attack.

Ardern said there would be an inquiry into what government agencies "knew, or could or should have known" about the alleged gunman and whether the attack could have been prevented.

More than 250 New Zealand police are working on the inquiry, with staff from the US FBI and Australia's Federal Police joining them.

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