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.
“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.
The first funerals have been held for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks.
PM Jacinda Ardern says 30 bodies have so far been approved for release. pic.twitter.com/1naoJeyIoK
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 20, 2019
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.
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.
“We’re here, this is our home and we’re staying.”
Waleed Wahsh talks to Al Jazeera about the loss of 3 close friends during the New Zealand mosque attacks. pic.twitter.com/8Pnoar6qX6
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 18, 2019
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”.
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 there will be a two minute silence.