NZ victims’ families to claim dead

Source:AFP Published: 2019/3/17 21:18:40

First 50 bodies from mosque attacks to be released

New Zealand authorities readied Sunday to release the first remains of 50 worshippers slain in a twin mosque attack, allowing families from across the Muslim world to begin to bury their dead.

Coroners said they hoped to release at least one body late Sunday, allowing pious families - anxious to fulfil Muslim burial customs - to begin their sacred rites.

The dead span generations, aged between 3 and 77, according to a sombre list circulated among relatives. 

Some victims came from the neighborhood, others from as far afield as Egypt or Fiji. At least two of the dead - a father and son - came from the same family.

"It's a massacre, what else do they need to know?" said school principal Sheikh Amjad Ali, expressing frustration with the wait for loved ones' remains. 

Islamic custom dictates that the dead should be buried within 24 hours, but strained authorities, desperate to make sure no mistakes are made or the complex investigation harmed, said a quick process was difficult.

"All of the deceased have had a CT scan, their fingerprints are taken, the property they were wearing or had with them is removed," said Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall, adding that dental impressions were taken and post-mortems performed.

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said: "The bodies of those who have died are beginning to be returned to their families from this evening." She added that all were expected to be released by Wednesday.

As New Zealanders flocked to memorial sites to lay flowers and mourn the victims, testimony emerged of epic heroism, harrowing suffering and incredible grace.

Farid Ahmad, whose 44-year-old wife Husna was killed as she rushed back into a mosque to rescue him, refused to harbour hatred toward the gunman, Australian-born, self-avowed white nationalist, Brenton Tarrant.

"I would say to him 'I love him as a person,'" Ahmad told AFP. 

Asked if he forgave the 28-year-old suspect, he said: "Of course. The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity." 

Husna Ahmad was among four women believed to have been killed by Tarrant, who documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy-filled far-right "manifesto."

Ardern said on Sunday that her office and some 30 other officials had received the document by email about nine minutes before the attack.

"It did not include a location, it did not include specific details," she said, adding that it was sent to security services within two minutes of receipt.

Authorities said 34 people remained in hospital.

Among those fighting for their lives is four-year-old Alin Alsati. The pre-schooler was praying alongside her father Waseeim at the Al Noor mosque when she was shot at least three times.

Her father, who was also shot, recently emigrated to New Zealand from Jordan.


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