The Latest: Pope offers prayers for mosque shooting victims

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Latest on shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (all times local):

12:30 a.m. Monday

Pope Francis has offered prayers for “our Muslim brothers” killed in the attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Francis in his traditional Sunday prayer said that the mosque attack victims were added “to the pain wars and conflicts that don’t cease to afflict humanity.”

Francis led the faithful in a silent prayer “for our Muslim brothers who were killed” and renewed “an invitation to unite in prayer and gestures of peace to oppose hatred and violence.”

The public prayers follow a telegram of condolences sent after the Friday attacks that claimed 50 victims in which the pontiff denounced “the senseless acts of violence.”

A 28-year-old white supremacist from Australia is suspected in carrying out the worst terror attack in New Zealand’s modern history.


11:50 p.m. Sunday

Australia’s Nine Network television has broadcast an interview with a woman and a man who it says are a grandmother and an uncle of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the Australian man accused of carrying out the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques.

The woman, identified as Marie Fitzgerald, says, “It’s just so much for everything to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this.”

She adds, “It’s only since he traveled overseas, I think, that the boy has changed completely …”

The uncle, Terry Fitzgerald, says, “We say sorry, for the families over there, for the dead and the injured, yeah we just, can’t think nothing else, just want to go home and hide.”

The interview was conducted Sunday in the Australian city of Grafton in New South Wales state.

At least 50 people were killed in Friday’s attack.


11:25 p.m.

Pakistan will observe a day of mourning Monday for victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks and honor a man who died after trying to tackle the gunman.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Sunday that flags would fly at half-staff. He praised Naeem Rashid, saying he showed courage in trying to take down the attacker and would be honored at a Pakistan Day function on March 23.

Nine Pakistanis were among the 50 people killed when an immigrant-hating white nationalist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

Qureshi said foreign ministers from members of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation would meet in Istanbul next week to discuss ways of addressing anti-Islam sentiment.


9:40 p.m.

A fund send up to help the families of victims killed in the mosque attacks along with those who suffered injuries has raised over 4.3 million New Zealand dollars ($3 million).

The page on the site givealittle was created by a council of victim support groups. The council said it had been overwhelmed with the number of donations, which were more than it thought possible, and it would need to create a formal process to distribute the money.

The group said all the money would go directly to victims and their families, and that some would need it for bills, while others might need it for support services.


5:35 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman says three more Pakistanis have been identified among those killed in the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand. That brings the number of Pakistanis killed to nine.

Spokesman Mohammad Faisal? in his latest tweet Sunday said Zeeshan Raza, his father Ghulam Hussain and mother Karam Bibi are now confirmed to have killed in the terrorist attack in Christchurch.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Saturday that six Pakistanis were confirmed dead. They were identified as Sohail Shahid, Syed Jahandad Ali, Syed Areeb Ahmed, Mahboob Haroon, Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Naeem.

Rashid and Naeem gave their lives attempting to snatch the attacker’s gun.


5:25 p.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the bodies of the 50 people killed in Friday’s mosque attacks will start being released to family members beginning Sunday evening.

Ardern says only a small number of bodies will be released initially, and that authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday.

Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.

Anguished relatives have been anxiously waiting for authorities to release the remains.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush says they are working as quickly as they can, but authorities have to be absolutely clear on the causes of death and confirm identities before they can release bodies.


5:05 p.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reiterated her promise that there will be changes to the country’s gun laws in the wake of a terrorist attack on two mosques and said her Cabinet will discuss the policy details on Monday.

At a Sunday news conference, Arden used some of her strongest language yet about gun control, saying that laws need to change and “they will change.”

New Zealand has fewer restrictions on rifles or shotguns than many countries, while handguns are more tightly controlled.

Unlike the U.S., the right to own a firearm is not enshrined in New Zealand’s constitution.

Ardern declined to discuss more details until she’d talked to her Cabinet, the group of top lawmakers that guides policies.

Friday’s mass shootings in Christchurch killed 50 people.


10:05 a.m.

New Zealand police say they have found another body at one of the mosques that was attacked, raising the death toll in the shootings to 50.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced the latest death in a news conference Sunday. He says 36 victims remain hospitalized, with two of them in critical condition.

Bush also said that two people arrested around the time suspect Brenton Harrison Tarrant was apprehended are not believed to have been involved in the attacks on two mosques Friday.

He says one of those people has been released and the other has been charged with firearms offenses.

Tarrant is 28 and was arraigned Saturday on the first of many expected murder charges.

Categories: International News