New Zealand, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) — Anguished relatives were anxiously waiting Sunday for authorities to release the remains of those who were killed in massacres at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, while authorities announced the death toll from the racist attacks had risen to 50.
Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours. But two days after the worst terrorist attack in the country's modern history, relatives remained unsure when they would be able to bury their loved ones.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police were working with pathologists and coroners to release the bodies as soon as they could.
"We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen," he said. "But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible."
Police said they had released a preliminary list of the victims to families, which has helped give closure to some relatives who were waiting for any news.
The scale of the tragedy and the task still ahead became clear as supporters arrived from across the country to help with the burial rituals in Christchurch and authorities sent in backhoes to dig new graves in a Muslim burial area that was newly fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.
The suspect in the shootings, 28-year-old white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in court Saturday amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge and said more would likely follow.
Bush said at a news conference Sunday that they found another body at Al Noor mosque as they finished removing the victims, bringing the number of people killed there to 42. Another seven people were killed at Linwood mosque and one more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.
Another 34 victims remained at Christchurch Hospital, where officials said 12 were in critical condition. And a young child who was in a children's hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.
Dozens of Muslim supporters gathered at a center set up for victims, families and friends across the road from the hospital, where many had flown in from around New Zealand to offer support. About two dozen men received instructions on their duties Sunday morning, which included Muslim burial customs.
Abdul Hakim, 56, of Auckland, was among many who had flown in to help.
"As soon as people die we must bury them as soon as possible," Hakim said. "We are all here to help them in washing the body, putting them in the grave."
Javed Dadabhai, who flew from Auckland after learning about the death of his 35-year-old cousin Junaid Mortara, said the Muslim community was being patient.
"The family understands that it's a crime scene. It's going to be a criminal charge against the guy who's done this, so they need to be pretty thorough," he said.
Still, it was hard, he said, because the grieving process wouldn't really begin until he could bury his cousin.
People across New Zealand were still trying to come to terms with the massacre that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
A steady stream of mourners arrived at a makeshift memorial outside the Al Noor mosque, where hundreds of flowers lay piled amid candles, balloons and notes of grief and love. As a light rain fell, people clutched each other and wept quietly.
Under a nearby tree, someone had left a potted plant adorned with cut out red paper hearts. "We wish we knew your name to write upon your heart. We wish we knew your favorite song, what makes you smile, what makes you cry. We made a heart for you. 50 hearts for 50 lives."
Tarrant, the suspect, had posted a jumbled 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter.
The gunman livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at the Al Noor mosque, where he sprayed worshippers with bullets. Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.
The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.
Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally.
"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern said.
She did not offer too much detail, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.
Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Washington, Mar 16 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting an effort by Congress to block the emergency declaration he had used to try to shake loose funds for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The monthslong confrontation now moves to the courts, but not before marking a new era of divided government and Republicans' increasing independence from the White House.
Trump said Friday, "Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it."
A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats in approving the joint resolution Thursday. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump's veto.
Republican senators are exhibiting more willingness to stray from President Donald Trump. But those facing re-election next year are showing far more deference than the rest of their colleagues — and that suggests a worry that crossing him could be career-threatening.
When the Senate voted Thursday to block Trump's declared southwest border emergency, 12 of the 53 GOP senators joined Democrats in voting against him. That's a lot of defections for a president who normally has the backing of GOP lawmakers, a tribute to his overwhelming support among Republican voters.
A closer look shows that of the 20 Republican senators facing re-election in 2020, just one voted against Trump's emergency declaration: Maine Sen. Susan Collins.
Of the 33 incumbents not running next year, 11 defied him, or 1 in 3.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump's veto of legislation blocking the national emergency he's declared at the Mexican border shows he's defying "the Constitution, the Congress and the will of the American people."
The California Democrat says the House will vote March 26 on overriding Trump's veto. The chamber seems certain to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to succeed. That means his emergency declaration would survive, but it still faces several legal challenges.
Pelosi says GOP lawmakers must "choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Trump holds the Constitution "in minimal regard."
The emergency declaration allows Trump to divert $3.6 billion more than Congress approved to build border barriers. The Constitution gives Congress control over spending.
Trump vetoed the measure Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union says President Donald Trump's veto of a resolution terminating his national emergency declaration is meaningless.
Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, says the courts will be the ultimate arbiter of the declaration's legality.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit last month challenging the declaration on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition.
Public Citizen is another group that has taken legal action. Robert Weissman, the group's president, says "the autocratic Donald Trump shows his true colors yet again."
But Weissman says bipartisan rejection of the president's declaration will make it harder for him to declare "future fake emergencies for nefarious ends."
Trump wants to use the emergency order to divert billions of federal dollars earmarked for defense spending toward the southern border wall.
President Donald Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, overruling Congress to protect his emergency declaration for border wall funding.
Flanked by law enforcement officials as well as the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally, Trump says "our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point" and calls the congressional action "dangerous" and "reckless."
A dozen Republicans joined with Senate Democrats on Thursday to back the joint resolution disapproving of Trump's emergency declaration. The House had passed the same resolution last month largely along party lines.
It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump's veto.
Trump wants to use the emergency order to redirect billions in federal dollars earmarked for defense spending toward the southern border wall. It still faces several legal challenges in federal court.
President Donald Trump says the United States is facing an invasion and that our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point as he prepares to veto a resolution that blocked his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.
Trump says the nation's immigration laws are dangerous for the country and have to change.
Trump is likely to prevail on his national emergency declaration. Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate. But there doesn't appear to be enough votes to override it.
President Donald Trump will sign the first veto of his presidency Friday, a day after Congress vote to terminate the national emergency Trump declared at the southern border. His declaration was an effort to circumvent Congress to secure more money for his proposed border wall.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley says in an appearance on Fox News that the president will be signing the veto at 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. He says Trump will be joined with law enforcement as well as the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally.
Hogan is calling this "a sad moment and a very important moment" and says the vote against the president is also a vote "against the America people and their safety and security."
Republicans joined Senate Democrats in blocking the order but there do not appear to be enough votes for an override.
President Donald Trump is poised to issue the first veto of his presidency after a dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats to block the national emergency he'd declared at the border. That declaration was an effort to circumvent Congress to secure more money for his southern border wall.
The bill was hand-delivered to the White House around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. And Trump made clear how he plans to respond, tweeting the word "VETO!" in all-caps moments after Thursday's vote.
White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp would not say when the veto would happen, but told reporters Friday Trump is "doing what he believes is his constitutional duty, which is to protect the American people."
She also says the president "is incredibly disappointed" with Republicans who voted against him.
A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared so he could build his border wall with Mexico. The rejection capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways.
The 59-41 tally Thursday, following the Senate's vote a day earlier to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, promised to force Trump into the first vetoes of his presidency. Trump had warned against both actions. Moments after Thursday's vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: "VETO!"
Two years into the Trump era, a defecting dozen Republicans, pushed along by Democrats, showed a willingness to take that political risk.
Suzano, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Two masked men armed with a gun, knives, axes and crossbows descended on a school in southern Brazil on Wednesday, killing five students and two adults before one killed the other and then himself, authorities said.
The men, identified as former students at the school in a suburb of Sao Paulo, also shot and killed the owner of a used car business nearby before launching the attack on the school, authorities said.
Besides the five students, the dead included a teacher and a school administrator, said Joao Camilo Pires de Campos, the state's public secretary. Nine others were wounded in the school attack and hospitalized, he said.
"This is the saddest day of my life," de Campos said, speaking to reporters outside the school in the Sao Paulo suburb of Suzano.
Authorities identified the attackers as 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro.
"The big question is: What was the motivation of these former students?" de Campos said.
Monteiro's mother, Tatiana Taucci, offered a possible answer, telling Band News while hiding her face from the camera that her son had been bullied at the school.
"Bullying, they call it. ... He stopped going to school ... because of this," she said.
She said she was surprised by his involvement and found out about the attack from the television like everyone else.
Minutes before the attack, Monteiro had posted 26 photos on his Facebook page, included several posing with a gun and one that showed him giving the middle finger as he looked into the camera.
In some of the photos, he wore a black scarf with a white imprint of a skull and cross bones. No text accompanied the posts.
By Wednesday afternoon, Facebook had taken down Monteiro's page.
During the attack, Monteiro opened fire with a .38 caliber handgun and de Castro used a crossbow, de Campos said, adding that forensics would determine how each of the victims died.
The attackers were also carrying Molotov cocktails, knives and small axes, authorities said
"In 34 years as a policeman, it's the first time I see someone use a crossbow like that," police Col. Marcelo Salles said. "It is horrendous."
The assailants were trying to force their way inside a room at the back of the school where many students were hiding when police arrived. Instead of facing police, they took their own lives. Monteiro shot de Castro in the head and then shot himself, police said.
Students gathered outside the school recounted harrowing attacks and seeing several bodies lying in pools of blood.
Kelly Milene Guerra Cardoso, 16, said she and other students took refuge in the school's cafeteria, locked the door and lay on the floor.
"We stayed there until the door was opened. We thought it was the shooters coming to get us, but it was the police," she said. "They told us to start running."
Horacio Pereira Nunes, a retiree whose house is next to the school, said he heard shots around 10 a.m.
"Then a lot of kids started running out, all screaming," he said. "It didn't take long until police arrived."
The Raul Brasil Professor public school has more than 1,600 students from elementary to high school grades, teachers gathered outside said.
Latin America's most populous nation has the largest number of annual homicides in the world, but school shootings are rare.
In 2011, 12 students were killed by a gunman who roamed the halls of a school in Rio de Janeiro, shooting at them.
President Jair Bolsonaro ran on a platform that included promises to crack down on criminals, in part by expanding public access to guns. Soon after his Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro issued a decree making it easier to buy a gun.
"A monstrosity and cowardness without equal," Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet expressing his sympathies for the families of the victims of Wednesday's attacks.
Similar to arguments made by proponents of less gun regulation in the United States, Bolsonaro and his supporters argue that expanded access to guns will combat crime.
Sen. Major Olimpio, a member of Bolsonaro's party and a proponent of loosening gun legislation, again made that argument hours after Wednesday's rampage.
"We can't let those who take advantage of this tragedy speak about how disarmament is the solution," he tweeted, adding: "Weak and shameful 'disarmament farce,' which gave guns to criminals and prevented self-defense."
Hanoi, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — Vietnam has urged Malaysia to release the second woman accused of killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader after her co-defendant was unexpectedly set free this week.
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh made the plea in a phone call Tuesday with his counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, according to a statement on the ministry website. It said Minh requested the Malaysian court conduct a fair trial and free Doan Thi Huong.
Malaysia on Monday dropped the murder charge against her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who has returned to her home village.
Huong's murder trial is to resume Thursday, and prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong's lawyers for the government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well.
The two women were accused along with four missing North Koreans of killing Kim Jong Nam by VX nerve agent at a Malaysian airport in 2017. Both women say they were thought they were playing a prank for a TV show.
Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable retreat in their case against Aisyah, whose home government had lobbied hard for her release.
Vietnam has pushed less hard on behalf of Huong, and recently hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit with President Donald Trump.
Indonesia's government said its continued high-level lobbying had resulted in Aisyah's release and alleged the young migrant worker had no idea she was being "manipulated by North Korean intelligence."
Huong's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said after Monday's court session that Huong felt Aisyah's discharge was unfair to her because the judge last year had found sufficient evidence to continue the murder trial against both of them.
"She is entitled to the same kind of consideration as Aisyah," he said.
Lawyers for the women have previously said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicized.
Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea's ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule.
Sao Paulo, Mar 12 (AP/UNB) — Heavy rains deluged Brazil's biggest city, causing flooding and other damage that resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people, authorities said Monday. Six people were reported injured.
Sao Paulo's emergency center said it rained in one day almost a third of all precipitation expected for the entire month of March. Several roads were blocked by mud and destroyed furniture in different parts of the city.
The Sao Paulo state fire department said four people died when a house collapsed in the city of Ribeirao Pires, on the outskirts of the megalopolis.
It also said two people drowned in flooding of the Tamanduatei River and another died in Sao Bernardo do Campo. Other victims died in the cities of Embu das Artes, Santo Andre and Sao Caetano.
Heavy rain began falling Sunday night and more was expected.
Gov. Joao Doria told Sao Paulo residents to stay home if they were in safe areas, but move as quickly as possible if they were not.
"Between losing the shack and life, choose life," Doria said on the BandNews television channel.