Families of Christchurch attack victims bury their loved ones

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Five days after the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history, the coroner’s office has begun releasing bodies, allowing the families of some of the victims to lay their loved ones to rest.

At least five victims were laid to rest on Wednesday at the Memorial Park Cemetery, following the release of the bodies a day earlier. Among those buried were a 15-year-old Syrian refugee Hamza Mustafa and his father, Khalid, 44. They had just arrived in New Zealand six months before they were killed. Hamza’s younger brother Zaid, 13, suffered gunshot wounds to the leg in the attack. He was seen being pushed around in a wheelchair during the ceremony. Junaid Ismail, 36, and Ashraf Ali, 58, were buried in seperate ceremonies later on Wednesday. The fifth buried victim’s name could not be reported.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the bodies of a small number of victims would start to be returned to families from Sunday night, with all to be returned by Wednesday. Mr Bush told media that police were highly aware of concerns among some in the Muslim community that the time taken to examine the bodies has prevented the swift burials called for under Islam. “So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible,” he said. Heavy machinery was being used to meet the task of digging the graves in the city’s Muslim cemetery. Javed Dadabhai, whose cousin was killed in the attack, travelled from Auckland to help organise the funerals and said the need for a thorough investigation was clear. “Those family members who require the grieving, their grieving process isn’t beginning,” he said. “But we need to give [authorities] all the time they need for investigations. … We wouldn’t want to think that because of some pressure or haste from our community that we’re going to put the police in a situation they’ll regret later.”

Christchurch Hospital said 29 people wounded in the attacks were still receiving medical treatment. Eight remain in critical condition. A four-year-old girl being treated in the Starship Hospital in Auckland also remains in critical condition, the statement added.”We are gearing all available theatres to follow-up acute surgery, which means we will be continuing to postpone planned surgeries,” said  David Meates, chief executive of Canterbury District Health Board. “People injured in the mosque attacks are still our priority for surgery.”

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