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Day of mourning observed in solidarity with NZ terror attack victims

Updated March 18, 2019

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A Pakistan man embraces the father of Syed Areeb Ahmed (R), reportedly gunned down in the New Zealand massacre, in Karachi on March 16, 2019, a day after the shooting attack on two mosques in Christchurch. — AFP
A Pakistan man embraces the father of Syed Areeb Ahmed (R), reportedly gunned down in the New Zealand massacre, in Karachi on March 16, 2019, a day after the shooting attack on two mosques in Christchurch. — AFP

A day of mourning is being observed across the country on Monday to express solidarity with the families of the victims of the Christchurch terror attack last week, Radio Pakistan reported. The national flag is also being flown at half mast as a sign of respect for the deceased.

At least 50 people, including nine of Pakistani origin, were killed by a right-wing white supremacist who, armed with semi-automatic weapons, opened fire on worshippers in two mosques during Friday congregational prayers and livestreamed the terror attack on social media.

His two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people died, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.

The survivors included 17 members of Bangladesh's cricket team, whose game against New Zealand on Saturday was cancelled, and a Palestinian man who fled for his life after seeing someone being shot in the head.

The process of handing over the bodies of those killed in the gun attacks will begin today, New Zealand's foreign minister, Winston Peters, told his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi over the phone.

The government is also assisting Pakistani victims' families who wish to travel to Christchurch to attend the funerals of their loved ones and bring their bodies back home for burial.

The mother and brother of one of the victims, Naeem Rasheed, will leave for New Zealand today. The government will confer a national award on Rasheed, who is being hailed as a hero after he was seen trying to tackle the gunman.

The gunman, 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, was indicted by a district court for murder on Saturday. Two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.

The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing a total of around 50 murders a year in the country of 4.8 million people, and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place. The country is looking to amend its gun control laws in the coming days.

Families await loved ones' bodies

Frustrated families of the 50 victims were still waiting on Monday for the release of the bodies of their loved ones, as officials worked their way through a painstaking investigation.

Dozens of graves were being dug in readiness for that release, which Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha said he hoped would happen soon.

"The process has been highly emotional and stressful for all... as in accordance with Islamic faith the families have wanted the bodies to be returned as soon as possible," he said. "We have burial expert teams in place ready to receive the bodies at a point in time."

The dead from Friday's attack span generations, aged between three and 77, according to a list circulated among relatives.

Some victims came from the neighbourhood, others from as far afield as Egypt. At least two of the dead came from the same family — a father and son.

Delhi said on Sunday that five of its nationals were killed. Authorities said 31 people remained in hospital, nine in critical condition.

The ripples from Friday's horror continued to spread across New Zealand, with the brief shuttering of an airport in Dunedin after a suspicious package sparked a security alert.

Reigning Super Rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders, who play in Christchurch, said on Monday they would consider changing their name after criticism that it was historically insensitive.

Distinctive writing on the mosque attacker's weaponry included the names of figures from the Crusades, the religious wars waged by European Christians against Muslims for control of the Holy Land in the Middle Ages.