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New Zealand to observe Muslim prayer after mosque attacks

Published
Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — In a day without precedent, people across New Zealand were planning to observe the Muslim call to prayer Friday as the nation reflected on the moment one week ago when 50 people were slaughtered at two mosques.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and thousands of others planned to congregate in leafy Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch to observe the call to prayer at 1:30 p.m.

Thousands more were planning to listen in on the radio or watch on television as the event was broadcast live. The prayer was to be followed by two minutes of silence.

Fahim Imam, 33, of Auckland, flew in Friday morning from New Zealand's largest city for the service. He was born and grew up in Christchurch but moved away three years ago.

"It's just amazing to see how the country and the community have come together — blows my mind, actually," Imam said before the event.

"As soon as I got off the plane, I saw a sign someone was holding that said 'jenaza,' denoting Muslim funeral prayer. Others were offering free rides to and from the prayer service," Imam said.

"The moment I landed in Christchurch, I could feel the love here. I've never felt more proud to be a Muslim, or a Kiwi for that matter. It makes me really happy to be able to say that I'm a New Zealander," he added.

He called it surreal to see the mosque where he used to pray surrounded by flowers.

The observance comes the day after the government announced a ban on "military-style" semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like the weapons that were used in last Friday's attacks.

At least 42 people died at the Al Noor mosque and at least seven others at the nearby Linwood mosque after a white supremacist gunned them down.

An immediate sales ban went into effect Thursday to prevent stockpiling, and new laws would be rushed through Parliament that would impose a complete ban on the weapons, Ardern said.

"Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned," Ardern said.

The gun legislation is supported not only by Ardern's liberal Labour Party but also the conservative opposition National Party, so it's expected to pass into law. New Zealand does not have a constitutional right to bear arms.

Among those planning to attend Friday's observance was Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney and part of a 15-strong delegation of Muslim leaders that had flown to Christchurch.

"It was an ugly act of terrorism that occurred in a beautiful, peaceful city," Dandan said.

He said his pain couldn't compare with that of the families he'd been visiting who had lost loves ones. He was inspired by their resilience, he said.

"And I've got to give all my respect to the New Zealand prime minister, with her position and her actions, and it speaks loud," he said.

Ismat Fatimah, 46, said it was sad to look at the Al Noor mosque, which was still surrounded by construction barricades, armed police officers and a huge mound of flowers and messages.

"We're feeling stronger than before, and we are one," she said.

She said she prayed for the people who died.

"I'm just imagining what would be happening last Friday," she said. "People were running around so scared and helpless. It's just not right."

Erum Hafeez, 18 said she felt comforted by the overwhelming response from New Zealanders to the tragedy:

"We are embraced by the community of New Zealand, we are not left behind and alone."

There are nearly 250,000 licensed gun owners in New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million. Officials estimate there are 1.5 million guns in the country.

Ardern said people could hand over their prohibited guns under an amnesty while officials develop a formal buyback scheme, which could cost up to 200 million New Zealand dollars ($140 million).

The government said the police and military would be exempt. Access for international shooting competitions would also be considered.

The man charged in the mosque attacks had purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines "done easily through a simple online purchase," Ardern said.

Although the exact weapons used in the mosque attacks have not been announced, images posted by the gunman show at least one of them to be a semi-automatic rifle similar to an AR-15 that is widely available in New Zealand.

Ardern's announcement came as authorities said all 50 bodies from the attacks were formally identified.

A 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, was arrested by police who ran him off the road while he was believed to be on his way to a third target. He had livestreamed the attack on Facebook and said in his manifesto he planned to attack three mosques.

Tarrant, 28, is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5, and Bush said investigations were continuing. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support. He has been charged with one count of murder and more charges are expected to follow.

Workers at the Al Noor mosque have been working feverishly to repair the destruction from the attacks, said imam Gamal Fouda.

"They will bury the carpet," he said, "because it is full of blood, and it's contaminated."

Fouda said he expects the mosque to be open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.

The gun prohibition includes semi-automatic guns or shotguns that can be used with a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds. It also applies to accessories used to convert guns into what the government called "military-style" weapons.

The ban does not apply to guns commonly used by farmers and hunters, including semi-automatic .22 caliber or smaller guns that hold up to 10 rounds, or semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns with non-detachable magazines that hold up to five rounds.

Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.  (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.
 (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.  (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.  (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this image made from video, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, speaks during a press conference in Wellington, Thursday, March 21, 2019. The New Zealand government is asking all owners of assault weapons or now-banned attachments to report them to the government in the next two days before turning them in. Ardern on Thursday announced that the government was immediately banning sales of what New Zealand calls military style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques. (TVNZ via AP)
In this image made from video, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, speaks during a press conference in Wellington, Thursday, March 21, 2019. The New Zealand government is asking all owners of assault weapons or now-banned attachments to report them to the government in the next two days before turning them in. Ardern on Thursday announced that the government was immediately banning sales of what New Zealand calls military style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques. (TVNZ via AP)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
A poster featuring a drawing of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A poster featuring a drawing of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A tribute for mosque shooting victim Tariq Omar is placed at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A tribute for mosque shooting victim Tariq Omar is placed at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
New Zealand's flag is on display as volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
New Zealand's flag is on display as volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
FILE - In this March 20, 2019, file photo, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during an event to meet the first responder in the March 15 mosque shooting, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and
FILE - In this March 20, 2019, file photo, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during an event to meet the first responder in the March 15 mosque shooting, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and "military style semi-automatic rifles" like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques. Ardern announced the ban Thursday, March 21, and said it would be followed by legislation to be introduced next month.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
In this Thursday, March 21, 2019, photo provided by the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres signs the book of condolence at the New Zealand Mission in New York, for victims of the March 15, 2019, Christchurch mosque shootings. (Evan Schneider/The United Nations via AP)
A tribute of a victim of mosque shooting, Ansi Alibava, hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A tribute of a victim of mosque shooting, Ansi Alibava, hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Volunteers move flowers away near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Visitors to the Botanical Gardens look at a floral tribute for the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Visitors to the Botanical Gardens look at a floral tribute for the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners attend the service for a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A tribute for mosque shooting victim Hossein Moustafa hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A tribute for mosque shooting victim Hossein Moustafa hangs on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21, 2019. Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack on Friday March 15. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.
 (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people.  (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners carry the body of a victim of the mosque shootings for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 22, 2019. People across New Zealand will listen to the Muslim call to prayer on Friday as the nation marks one week since a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 50 people. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)