Christchurch attack: Damaged mosque repaired for Friday prayers

Construction work to fix machine-gunned mosque under way as funerals resume in grief-stricken New Zealand.

Christchurch attack
A motorcycle gang provides an escort to a hearse transporting a body for burial on Thursday [Marty Melville/AFP]

The bullet-scarred Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers as grieving families buried more victims of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting on Thursday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally and a two-minute silence will be observed.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand after 50 people were killed last Friday by a lone gunman who attacked worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch.

“We will have a heightened presence tomorrow in order to provide reassurance to people attending the Friday call for prayers,” police said in a statement on Thursday.

“Police have been working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to gather all appropriate evidence from what are active crime scenes so we can allow people to return to the mosques as quickly as possible.”

Both mosques attacked, Al Noor and the nearby Linwood Mosque, plan to reopen. Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al Noor Mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were immigrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Funerals resume

A mournful cry of “Allahu Akbar” over a loudspeaker signalled the service had begun on Thursday. Mourners prayed before raising the bodies of two of the victims above their heads and carrying them to their graves.

Hundreds of mourners, including non-Muslims and many schoolchildren, wept and embraced as they said goodbye to 14-year-old Sayyad Milne and 24-year-old Tariq Omar.

Sayyad’s father, John Milne, said his son was gunned down while praying at Al Noor.

Milne previously described his son as “a beautiful boy” and “my special little one” who longed to play for the northern England football club Manchester United.

Mourners arrived at the cemetery in long lines on a grey day, schoolgirls struggling to keep scarves on their heads in the wind.

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

Omar was a coach for junior football teams. Christchurch United Academy Director Colin Williamson described him as “a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching”.

Local media reported 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.

“He was one of those people that everyone knew,” said Cashmere student Bailey Jordan, 15, as he left the funeral.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. 

Bodies released    

Police said on Thursday they had identified and were able to release all 50 bodies to the families.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced an immediate ban on the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons along with related parts that could allow them to fire more rounds. 

“It’s in the national interest and it’s about safety … to prevent an act of terror from ever happening again in our country,” Ardern said of the ban.

Twenty-nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

Many have had to undergo multiple surgeries because of complicated gunshot wounds. The gunman used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, with large magazines, and shotguns.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police say he is likely to face more charges.

The scale of the attack has caused global revulsion, including for Tarrant’s use of social media to livestream the carnage in real-time.

In a rambling “manifesto”, he said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke religious conflict between Islam and the West by targetting “invaders”.

Source: News Agencies