Christchurch attacks: Al-Noor mosque reopens to worshippers

Members of the Muslim community react as they leave the Al Noor Mosque in ChristchurchImage copyright

Image caption

Small groups were allowed to enter the Al Noor mosque on Saturday

Worshippers have returned to the Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch for the first time since a mass shooting there in which dozens of people were killed.

The building had closed so police could investigate the attack but on Saturday small groups were allowed to return.

Fifty people were killed in shootings at two mosques on 15 March.

As the Al Noor mosque reopened, some 3,000 people walked through Christchurch on Saturday for a ‘march for love’ intended to honour victims.

Many walked in silence and some carried placards calling for peace and opposing racism.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times,” said Manaia Butler, a 16-year-old student who helped to organise the march. “Love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” she said.

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Aden Diriye, who lost his 3-year-old son in the attack, returned to the Al-Noor mosque on Saturday. “I am very happy,” he said after praying. ” I was back as soon as we rebuilt, to pray.”

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with one murder in connection with the attacks and he is expected to face further charges.

Media captionThe victims have been remembered at events throughout the week

Bullet holes gone, walls repainted

With the crime scene investigation completed, the Al-Noor mosque, where the majority of the victims were killed, was handed back to the city’s Muslim community.

At around midday local time (23:00 GMT Friday), small groups of worshippers were allowed back onto the grounds, while armed police patrolled the site.

“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at the mosque, told AFP news agency. He did not say when the mosque would fully reopen.

The mosque had been repaired, with bullet holes filled in and walls freshly painted – though the lack of rugs on the floor served as a reminder of what had happened.

Worshippers knelt to pray on a grey padded carpet underlay taped to the floor.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back,” Ashif Shaikh, who was in the mosque at the time of the shooting, told Reuters news agency.

Police said the nearby Linwood mosque, which was the second to be attacked, had also reopened.

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Gun law reform

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced a ban on all types of semi-automatic weapons following the Christchurch attacks.

She said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: “Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too.”

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Media captionNew Zealand’s PM said she hoped the ban would be in place by 11 April

“Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said in a news conference.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

An amnesty has been imposed so the owners of affected weapons can hand them in, and a buy-back scheme will follow.

The buy-back could cost up to NZ$200m ($138m; £104m), but Ms Ardern said “that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities”.

Ms Ardern has also announced that a National Memorial Service for victims is being planned for next week.