The Latest: New Zealand leader visits school of 2 victims

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Latest on the mosque shootings in New Zealand (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has visited a school where two boys killed in last week’s mosque attacks were students.

In a speech at Cashmere High School, Ardern renewed her call for people to focus on the victims rather than the perpetrator.

She says there will be interest in the terrorist but asked the students not to say his name or dwell on him.

The Cashmere High students killed were 14-year-old Sayyad Milne and 16-year-old Hamza Mustafa. A third Cashmere student, Mustafa’s 13-year-old brother Zaed, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his leg.


10:45 a.m. Wednesday

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says police have now formally identified and released the bodies of 21 people out of the 50 who were killed in last week’s mosque attacks.

Bush said that releasing the bodies was a priority for family reasons, compassionate reasons and cultural reasons.

Islamic law says that people should be buried as soon as possible after death, preferably within 24 hours.

Bush’s comments came after it was announced that the first two burials of the victims are scheduled to take place Wednesday morning.

He says they hope to finish formally identifying most victims by the end of the day although some will take longer.


10 a.m.

The first two burials of the victims from last week’s mosque shootings in New Zealand are scheduled to take place Wednesday morning.

Christchurch City Council spokeswoman Jocelyn Ritchie says the Muslim burial ceremony for the two of the 50 people killed will take place at 11 a.m. She said she did not know the identities of the two bodies to be buried first.

Authorities spent four days constructing a special grave at a city cemetery that is designated for Muslim burials.

It’s uncertain how many of the victims will be buried there. Officials have received some requests to send bodies to the native countries of those killed.

The alleged Australian gunman who opened fire inside the mosques last week was a self-proclaimed racist.

About 60 men in Muslim attire held meetings at the grave site ahead of the burials to survey the area.


12:30 a.m.

A group of big internet companies says it has added more than 800 different versions of the New Zealand mosque shooting video to a shared database used to block violent terrorist images and videos.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism said Monday that it added “digital fingerprints” for the visually distinct videos to its list.

The group, led by Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter, was responding to attempts by internet users to share the video by editing or repackaging versions with different digital fingerprints to avoid detection.

The forum said in a brief statement that the “incident highlights the importance of industry cooperation regarding the range of terrorists and violent extremists operating online.”

The group formed in 2017 in response to official pressure to do more to fight online extremism.


12:30 a.m.

Ignoring widespread criticism, Turkey’s president has again shown excerpts of a video taken by the attacker who killed 50 people in mosques in New Zealand.

Speaking at a campaign rally in the northern town of Eregli, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on New Zealand to amend its laws to ensure that the attacker is severely punished.

Erdogan said, “If New Zealand fails to hold the attacker accountable, one way or another we will hold him to account.”

He went on to criticize New Zealand and Australia for sending troops to Turkey in the World War I Gallipoli campaign, claiming their motive was anti-Islam-oriented.

Erdogan has been using clips from Friday’s attack to denounce Islamophobia ahead of March 31 local elections as he tries to stoke nationalist and religious sentiments.


11:25 p.m. Tuesday

Facebook says it received no reports of the video of the Christchurch mosque attacks while it was being livestreamed by the gunman.

Chris Sonderby, vice president and deputy general counsel at Facebook, says “no users reported the video during the live broadcast,” which was viewed fewer than 200 times.

Sonderby says in a blog post that Facebook removed the video “within minutes'” of being contacted by police, and it was watched about 4,000 times in total before being taken down. He says Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks in the 24 hours after the event.

Social media companies rely on the public to report objectionable comment. Facebook has come under fire after video of the shootings spread rapidly on the internet.


10:10 p.m.

Police in New Zealand say they have completed autopsies on all 50 victims of last week’s mosque shootings, and have formally identified 12 of them. Six of the identified victims have been returned to their families.

Four days after the attack, relatives were anxiously waiting Tuesday for word on when they can bury their loved ones.

Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday, and police have said authorities are working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they can.

Police said in a statement that their “absolute priority is to get this right and ensure that no mistakes are made.”

Categories: International News