Christchurch shootings: First funerals for victims of mosque attacks

Body of a victim of the mosque attacks arrives during the burial ceremony at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand March 20, 2019Image copyright

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The burials have been delayed because of the identification process

A father and son from Syria have been buried in the first funerals for those killed in the New Zealand mosque shootings that left 50 people dead.

Khaled Mustafa, 44, and Hamza, 16, arrived with their family as refugees to New Zealand last year.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a cemetery near the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, one of two places of worship targeted last Friday.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder.

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.

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Zaid Mustafa attended the funeral of his father and brother in a wheelchair

The two victims, who were killed at the Al-Noor mosque, leave behind a wife and a younger teenage brother who was also injured in the attack.

A large marquee had been set up so relatives and friends were able to spend time with their dead before they were buried.

More funeral are expected later on Wednesday.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

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

All bodies to be released

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

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities had to prove the cause of death to establish for the courts to treat it as murder.

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

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Media captionA comic is asking searching questions about race relations in the wake of the attack

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced two minutes of silence on Friday, 22 March which is the Muslim day of prayer and will mark one week since the shooting.

There will also a broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer on national TV and radio on Friday.

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”.

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Jacinda Ardern received a hug from a student when she visited Cashmere High School

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

New Zealanders hand in guns

Following an appeal by Ms 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 announced the nation’s gun laws would be reformed in the wake of the attack. Details of the plans are expected within days.

On Wednesday she said “we have a large number of loopholes in our laws. Many New Zealanders would be astounded to know you can access military style weapons.”

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

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