190319 Al Noor
A man who said he frequented the Al Noor Mosque, but was away when a mass shooting occurred there days ago, prays at a makeshift memorial in front of the building, on Tuesday morning, March 19, 2019. Image Credit: New York Times

Christchurch: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Tuesday that the man responsible for last week’s deadly mosque massacres would face “the full force of the law”, as she vowed never to utter his name.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety — that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting “as salaam aleikum” — ‘peace be upon you’.

“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them,” she told the gathering in Wellington, four days after the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch.

“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was captured by police and has been charged with one count of murder, but Ardern assured parliament other charges would follow.

“He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” she said.

Ardern has promised reforms to New Zealand gun laws which allowed Tarrant to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack, including semi-automatic rifles.

And she announced a full review of how the Australian — an avowed white supremacist — was able to plan and carry out the attacks in New Zealand under the radar of security services.

“The person who committed these acts was not from here. He was not raised here. He did not find his ideology here. But that is not to say that those very same views do not live here,” she said.

Her comments came as dozens of relatives of the deceased began arriving from around the world ahead of expected funerals which have already been delayed far beyond the 24 hours after death usually observed under Islamic custom.

Peter Elms of New Zealand's immigration department said 65 visas had been granted for overseas family members so far.

The slow process of identification and forensic documentation has so far made burials impossible, augmenting families' grief.

Javed Dadabhai, who travelled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers were told: "It is going to be a very slow process, a very thorough process."

"Some families have been invited to have a look at their family members... the ones that are easiest to recognise, but we are talking about three or four."

"The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members," he told AFP.

Mohamed Safi, 23, whose father Matiullah Safi died in Al Noor mosque, pleaded for officials to let him identify his father get a date for his burial.

"There's nothing they are offering," Safi, an Afghan refugee, said outside a family support centre.

"They are just saying they are doing their procedures, they are doing their process. But what process? Why do I not know what you are going through to identify the body... Why am I not contacted as an immediate family member?"

Gun control 

In the wake of the mass shooting, Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand gun laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack on two Christchurch mosques, including semi-automatic rifles.

New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.

Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic and tweeted: "on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn't outweigh the risk of misuse. We don't need these in our country."

The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account - most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful and vociferous.

Hart deleted the messages but posted online: "A warm kia ora to all my new American Facebook friends."

"I'm not familiar with your local customs, but I assume 'Cuck' is a traditional greeting," he said of the insult, short for "cuckold" frequently used by far-right pundits.

Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday.

But they issued a statement saying that "due to heightened security and the current environment, we would ask that people please call us first before attempting to surrender a firearm."

Ardern has said that details of the government's proposed law changes on gun ownership will be announced by next week, but she indicated that gun buybacks and a ban on some semi-automatic rifles were under consideration.

"The terror attack in Christchurch... was the worst act of terrorism on our shores, it was in fact one of the worst globally in recent times," she said.

"It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand's gun laws."