Bullet-ridden mosque to open for Friday prayers as New Zealand bans military-style guns

Police have said they inadvertently charged the suspect with the murder of someone who is still alive

The bullet-riddled Al Noor mosque in Christchurch was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers, as the government announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new weapons legislation.

"On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned."

Ms Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme – estimated to cost up to $138 million (Dh 451 million) – will be established for banned weapons.

As well as all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles, parts used to convert weapons into those categories of weapons and all high-capacity magazines will also be banned.

Under existing New Zealand gun laws, a standard A-category gun license allows semi-automatics limited to seven shots. Live-streamed video of a gunman in one of the mosques showed a semi-automatic weapon modified with a large magazine.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare.

"I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride."

Meanwhile, grieving families buried more victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting.

MS Ardern has announced that Friday's call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two-minute silence.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand after 50 people were killed in last Friday’s terror attack by a lone gunman 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, the Al Noor and nearby Linwood mosque, plan to be reopened. Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al Noor mosque, where the majority of victims died.

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

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected 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 said he was likely to face more charges.

However, in an apparent mistake, New Zealand police say they inadvertently charged mosque terror suspect with the murder of a person who is still alive. It is unclear what impact this will have on the man’s detention.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a school boy.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. Body washing will go on through the day and night to have the dead ready for burial, said one person involved in the process.

Police have identified and release to the families the bodies of some 30 victims.

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

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

The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook and it was quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Ms Ardern and others to rebuke technology companies and call for greater efforts to stop violence and extremist views being aired on social media.

Two men have been arrested for sharing the video of the attack.

Updated: March 21, 2019 11:03 AM


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