Christchurch shootings: New Zealand falls silent for mosque victims

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019

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PM Jacinda Ardern, centre, arrived amid tight security at Hagley Park shortly before Friday prayers began

New Zealand has broadcast the Islamic call to prayer and observed a two-minute silence in ceremonies to mark a week since the Christchurch attacks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined thousands of mourners near the Al-Noor mosque, one of two places of worship targeted in last Friday’s shootings.

Addressing the Muslim community she said: “New Zealand mourns with you, we are one.”

Fifty people were killed and dozens more wounded in the attacks.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with one murder and is expected to face further charges.

On Thursday Ms Ardern announced a ban on all types of semi-automatic weapons.

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Media captionThe victims have been remembered at events throughout the week

What is happening on Friday?

Thousands of people have gathered in Hagley Park, near the Al-Noor mosque, to mark Friday’s national day of reflection for the victims.

The Muslim call to prayer, or adhan, was broadcast on national television and radio at 13:30 (00:30 GMT) and was followed by a two-minute silence.

In an address beforehand, Ms Ardern cited Islamic scripture, adding: “When any part of the body suffers the whole body feels pain.”

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Many women wore headscarves as they arrived at Hagley Park in Christchurch

Imam Gamal Fouda, who was leading prayers, said the gunman “broke the hearts of millions around the world”.

“Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love and compassion,” he said. “New Zealand is unbreakable.”

Many mosques across the country are expected to open their doors to visitors and human chains will be formed outside some in symbolic acts of protection and solidarity.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

Fifty people lost their lives in the shootings at two mosques in the city.

Earlier, Ms Ardern encouraged as many New Zealanders as possible to use the day to pause and reflect.

“I know many New Zealanders wish to mark the week that has passed since the terrorist attack and to support the Muslim community as they return to mosques,” she said.

“How we choose to reflect during the silence will be different for each of us. Everyone should do what feels right for them, wherever they are – at home, at work, at school.”

One social media campaign has urged non-Muslim women in New Zealand to wear a headscarf for the day.

Meanwhile, government officials worked into the night to prepare the mosque and the bodies of victims for a mass burial in Christchurch later on Friday.

One person who took part said: “All the bodies are washed. We finished around 1.30am. It was our duty. After we finished there was a lot of emotion, people were crying and hugging.”

What is the gun ban?

Ms Ardern announced a ban on all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles 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.

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