New Zealanders pay tribute as terror attack victims’ families anxiously await return of dead

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People present floral tributes at a makeshift memorial for victims of the March 15 mosque attacks, in Christchurch on March 17, 2019. (AFP)
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Lit candles are seen in front of floral tributes at a makeshift memorial for victims of the March 15 mosque attacks, in Christchurch on March 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2019

New Zealanders pay tribute as terror attack victims’ families anxiously await return of dead

  • “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
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she expected all the dead would have been returned to their families by Wednesday

CHRISTCHURCH: A steady stream of mourners paid tribute Sunday at a makeshift memorial to the 50 people slain by a gunman at two mosques in Christchurch, while dozens of Muslims stood by to bury the dead when authorities finally release the victims' bodies.
Hundreds of flowers were piled up amid candles, balloons and notes of grief and love outside the Al-Noor mosque. As a light rain fell, people clutched each other and wept quietly.
"We wish we knew your name to write upon your heart. We wish we knew your favorite song, what makes you smile, what makes you cry," read one of the tributes, which contained cut-out paper hearts under a nearby tree. "We made a heart for you. 50 hearts for 50 lives."
Two days after Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history, relatives were still waiting for authorities to release the bodies. Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death.
Supporters arrived from across the country to help with the burials in Christchurch and authorities sent in backhoes to dig graves in a site that was newly fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities hoped to release all the bodies by Wednesday, and Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they could.
"We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen," Bush said. "But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible."
Police said they had released a preliminary list of the victims to families, which has helped give closure to some who were waiting for any news.
The suspect in the shootings, 28-year-old white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in court Saturday amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read one murder charge and said more would likely follow.
Tarrant had posted a jumbled 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter.
Ardern said the gunman had sent the manifesto to her office email about nine minutes before the attacks, although she hadn't gotten the email directly herself. She said her office was one of about 30 recipients and had forwarded the email to parliamentary security within a couple of minutes of receiving it.
Bush said at a news conference that another body had been found at Al-Noor mosque as they finished removing the victims, bringing the number of people killed there to 42. Another seven people were killed at Linwood mosque and one more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.
Thirty-four wounded remained at the hospital, where officials said 12 were in critical condition. A 4-year-old girl at a children's hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.
Dozens of Muslim supporters gathered at a center set up for victims, families and friends across the road from the hospital, where many had flown in from around New Zealand to offer support. About two dozen men received instructions on their duties Sunday, which included Muslim burial customs.
Abdul Hakim, 56, of Auckland, was among many who had flown in to help.
"As soon as people die, we must bury them as soon as possible," Hakim said. "We are all here to help them in washing the body, putting them in the grave."
Javed Dadabhai, who flew from Auckland after learning about the death of his 35-year-old cousin, Junaid Mortara, said the Muslim community was being patient.
"The family understands that it's a crime scene. It's going to be a criminal charge against the guy who's done this, so they need to be pretty thorough," he said.
Still, it was hard, he said, because the grieving process wouldn't really begin until he could bury his cousin.
People across the country were still trying to come to terms with the massacre that Ardern described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
At the Vatican, Pope Francis offered prayers for "our Muslim brothers" killed in the attack. At his traditional Sunday prayer, Francis renewed "an invitation to unite in prayer and gestures of peace to oppose hatred and violence."
The gunman livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at the Al Noor mosque, where he sprayed worshippers with bullets. Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.
The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.
Ardern has said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who legally bought the five guns he used.
At a news conference, the prime minister reiterated her promise that there will be changes to the country's gun laws. She said her Cabinet will discuss the policy details Monday.
Arden used some of her strongest language yet about gun control, saying that laws need to change and "they will change."
Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.
Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.