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New Zealand Acknowledges Release Of Victims' Bodies Has Been Slow


Authorities in New Zealand are releasing the bodies of those killed in last Friday's terror attacks on two mosques. The first of the funerals are taking place. Earlier today, the country's prime minister made her second visit to Christchurch since the attack. NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Christchurch.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language).

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's first stop was Cashmere High School, where students greeted her with a ceremonial Maori Haka dance.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language).

SCHMITZ: Two students and one former student from the school were among the 50 people who were killed last Friday. Ardern announced this Friday, the government would broadcast the Muslim call to prayer nationally, preceded by a moment of silence for the victims. She told reporters her cabinet is working hard to formulate gun law reforms to ensure this type of attack doesn't happen again.


PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN: We have a large number of loopholes in our laws. And many New Zealanders would be astounded to know that you can access military-style semi-automatics in the way that you can here. There are a range of things that need to be fixed. And I guess if I was to say New Zealand was a blueprint for anything, in some ways, it's a blueprint what not to do.

SCHMITZ: Ardern also announced that the bodies of 30 victims have been approved for release so that their families can bury them, acknowledging the process of releasing the bodies has been frustratingly slow. Orif Saeid, an immigrant from Afghanistan, lost two of his fellow Afghans to the attack.

ORIF SAEID: It's really important for us, as soon as possible, to bury the body. People do get frustrated because of the time. But, still, there is a process. We need to be patient. And we need to listen to the authorities, yes.

SCHMITZ: Prime Minister Ardern also mentioned that social media needed to be more tightly regulated in the wake of this attack, saying, these are global entities. It will take a global response. Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Christchurch. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.
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