Masses of graves were being excavated in a Christchurch cemetery on Monday for the 50 worshipers slain in two mosque attacks, as families appealed for the return of their dead.
Coroners stated they anticipated to let grief-stricken relatives accomplish Islamic burial customs soon, but asserted they had to move sensibly through their investigation into the horrific multiple murder.
New Zealand coped to come to terms with the slaughter — the worst attack on Muslims in recent times — stories of heroism, suffering and incredible grace emerged; Farid Ahmad, whose wife Husna was murdered as she rushed back into a mosque to rescue him, declined to harbor hatred toward the alleged gunman, Brenton Tarrant.
“I would say to him ‘I love him as a person’,” Ahmad, who uses a wheelchair said. “The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity.”
Husna Ahmad was among four women supposed to have been killed by Tarrant, who documented his radicalization and 2 years of planning in a drawn-out, winding and conspiracy-filled far-right “manifesto”.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cited her office and about 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 stated, adding that it was sent to security services within two minutes of receiving.
Everywhere in Christchurch, New Zealand and the rest of the world there have been vigils, prayers, memorials and messages of solidarity. “We stand together with our Muslim brothers & sisters” were the words on a large red banner, above a sea of flowers at one of the sites in what one resident dubbed the “city of sorrow”. An emotion-filled haka — the Maori war dance — was performed by a New Zealand biker gang to honor the Christchurch dead.
The country remained on high alert, with police on Sunday briefly closing an airport in the southern city of Dunedin — where Tarrant had lived — after an unidentified package was spotted on the airfield. The airport reopened a few hours later.
Islamic custom decrees that the dead should be laid to rest within 24 hours, but anxious authorities, frantic to make sure no mistakes are made or the complex investigation impaired, stated that a quick process was problematic.
“All of the deceased have had a CT scan, their fingerprints are taken, the property they were wearing or had with them is removed,” stated Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall.
Ardern added she expected all the dead would have been returned to their families by Wednesday.
Early Monday saw workers and excavators preparing dozens of graves in a cemetery in Christchurch though it was unclear when any funerals might start, reports said.
“It’s a massacre, what else do they need to know?” stated school principal Sheikh Amjad Ali, uttering frustration over the wait for loved ones’ remains.
The deceased from Friday’s attack spans across generations, aged between three and 77, conferring to a somber list circulated among relatives.
Most victims came from the neighborhood, others from as far afield as Egypt. At least 2 of the dead came from the same family — a father and son.
Delhi said Sunday that 5 of its nationals were killed, while Pakistan said 9 of its citizens were among the dead, including one man who died trying to rush Tarrant.
Authorities stated 34 people remained in hospital. Amongst those fighting for their lives is four-year-old Alin Alsati. The preschooler was praying together with her father Wasseim at the Al Noor mosque when she was shot at least three times. Her father, who was also shot and now undergoing surgery, recently emigrated from Jordan to New Zealand.
The number of dead and injured could have been higher, were not for people like Afghan refugee Abdul Aziz. Aziz was at the Linwood mosque with his four sons when he bravely faced the attacker armed with the only weapon he could grab: a hand-held credit card machine.
He then took up a blank shotgun castoff by the murderer and shouted “come on here” in a struggle to draw him off from his sons and other worshipers.
By Monday Ardern will gather her cabinet to discuss altering the country’s gun laws. Which could include a ban on semi-automatic weapons of the type made used by Tarrant.
Ardern also want responses from social media companies over the livestreaming of the bloodshed.
Police have urged Kiwis to go back to their normal business after days of lockout and proceedings. As everyone returns to work and school by Monday however, they will find high police presence, stated commissioner Mike Bush.