In this photo released by New Zealand Prime Minister's Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, meets representatives of the Muslim community, Saturday, March 16, 2019, at the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo:AP
New Zealand, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) —New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the bodies of the 50 people killed in Friday's mosque attacks will start being released to family members beginning Sunday evening.
Ardern says only a small number of bodies will be released initially, and that authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday.
Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.
Anguished relatives have been anxiously waiting for authorities to release the remains.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush says they are working as quickly as they can, but authorities have to be absolutely clear on the causes of death and confirm identities before they can release bodies.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reiterated her promise that there will be changes to the country's gun laws in the wake of a terrorist attack on two mosques and said her Cabinet will discuss the policy details on Monday.
At a Sunday news conference, Arden used some of her strongest language yet about gun control, saying that laws need to change and "they will change."
New Zealand has fewer restrictions on rifles or shotguns than many countries, while handguns are more tightly controlled.
Unlike the U.S., the right to own a firearm is not enshrined in New Zealand's constitution.
Ardern declined to discuss more details until she'd talked to her Cabinet, the group of top lawmakers that guides policies.
Friday's mass shootings in Christchurch killed 50 people.
New Zealand police say they have found another body at one of the mosques that was attacked, raising the death toll in the shootings to 50.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced the latest death in a news conference Sunday. He says 36 victims remain hospitalized, with two of them in critical condition.
Bush also said that two people arrested around the time suspect Brenton Harrison Tarrant was apprehended are not believed to have been involved in the attacks on two mosques Friday.
He says one of those people has been released and the other has been charged with firearms offenses.
Tarrant is 28 and was arraigned Saturday on the first of many expected murder charges.