Asia-Pacific

Football lovers mourned as Christchurch mosque shooting funerals held

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Hundreds of mourners have farewelled two football loving victims of New Zealand’s twin mosque shootings.

Mourners wept and embraced as they said goodbye to 14-year old Sayyad Milne and 24-year old Tariq Omar.

Both were among the 50 people who died during the Christchurch mosque shootings that have caused worldwide outpourings of grief.

Sayyad's father John Milne said his son was gunned down while praying at the Masjid Al Noor, the first of two mosques targeted.

The father had previously described his son as "a beautiful boy" and "my special little one" who longed to play for English football club Manchester United.

Christchurch terror: who were the victims?
Sayyad Milne has been described as a "brave" and "kind" boy who had just turned 14.
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A photo tribute for Christchurch mosque shooting victim Tariq Omar across the road from the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A photo tribute for Christchurch mosque shooting victim Tariq Omar across the road from the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AP

Mourners arrived at the cemetery in long lines on a grey and windy day.

Many came from Cashmere High School, which Sayyad attended alongside fellow victim Hamza Mustafa, a Syrian refugee who was buried Wednesday.

A mournful cry of "Allahu Akbar" over a loudspeaker signalled that the service had begun.

Mourners prayed before hoisting the two victims above their heads and carrying them to their graves.

Many shed tears, and held one another for support, as they left the cemetery following the ceremonies.

Mourners carry the casket of Sayyad Ahmed Milne, aged 14, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Mourners carry the casket of Sayyad Ahmed Milne, aged 14, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AAP

Fellow football lover, Tariq Omar coached junior football teams.

Christchurch United Academy Director Colin Williamson described the 24-year old as "a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart" and "love for coaching".

Local media reported that he was dropped off at the Al Noor mosque on the day of the killings by his mother who survived the attack because she was trying to find a parking space when the gunman launched his assault.

As he left the funeral, Cashmeer student Bailey Jordan, 15, described it as “really heartfelt” and “a tough time for everyone”.

“He was one of the people that everyone knew,” Mr Jordan said.

Mourners carry the casket of Tariq Rashid Omar, aged 24, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Mourners carry the casket of Tariq Rashid Omar, aged 24, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AAP

'Number of graves waiting'

One neighbour of the Milne family who attended described the service as "very respectful, very moving" and attended by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

She said she looked across the cemetery to see that so many more funerals would need to be held in the coming days.

"What struck me was the number of graves waiting... and the area they took up," the neighbour told AFP.

Mourners at the funeral of Sayyad Ahmed Milne, aged 14, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Mourners at the funeral of Sayyad Ahmed Milne, aged 14, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AAP

The scale of the attack has caused global condemnation, including for the accused gunman’s use of social media to live-stream the shootings in real-time.

In a so called "manifesto", the alleged shooter said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke religious conflict between Islam and the West.

Families of the victims have faced days of anxious waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones as criminal investigators and pathologists formally identify each person.

It was only on Wednesday that funerals could begin, including a father and son who had arrived as refugees from Syria last year.

New Zealanders have come out in large numbers to pray and mourn, especially in Christchurch which remains covered with flowers, cards and tributes.

People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.
People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AP

But the killings have also sparked a debate about the country's relatively permissive gun laws and whether New Zealand intelligence services have done enough to counter the threat of white supremacists.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to tighten gun regulations but has yet to release concrete details on what form of regulation her government favours.

In an interview with the BBC she called for a global fight against racism and extremism.

"If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries," she said.

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