Muslim community reclaims shooting mosques

6:41 pm on 23 March 2019

A man who survived last Friday's mass shooting says he is not afraid to go back inside the Al Noor Mosque.

The restored Al Noor mosque has reopened for prayer this afternoon for the first time since last week's terrorist attacks. Christchurch's Muslim community have reentered the two mosques targeted in the attacks, reclaiming them as places of worship and community.

Huzef Vohra was lying under a pile of bodies inside the mosque as the gunman shot and killed many of his friends.

He said people wanted to gather at the mosque again to pray and see how each other was doing.

"Everyone's at their place. . . How do you know what their situation is? How do you pass on their condolences to them? So it's just best that we gather together, support each other."

The mosques have been under police control since last Friday's killings.

Members of the local Muslim community inspect the interior of the Al Noor Mosque after it was reopened.

Members of the local Muslim community inspect the interior of the Al Noor Mosque after it was reopened. Photo: AFP

Just after 11am deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha escorted the first of three groups of people to the Al Noor mosque on Dean's Avenue where 42 people were shot dead just over a week ago.

The group of men and women including Imam Gamal Fouda - who was leading prayers at the mosque when it was attacked on Friday, and who gave a powerful speech at the Hagley Park event yesterday - and a delegation from the Jordanian royal family stood for several minutes outside the main door of the mosque.

The mosque's council is now allowing groups of 15 people inside for five minutes at a time, with instructions to take no photos.

Walking to Al Noor mosque.

The delegation walking into Al Noor mosque. Photo: RNZ/John Gerritsen

The mosque has been almost completely restored and all signs of last week's deadly attack in the building have been removed.

Inside, there is the smell of fresh paint and all that is missing is new carpet, instead the floor is covered in grey underlay.

A small crowd is gathered at the mosque's gates and people are being allowed in in small groups.

A young woman is kneeling in front of a set of photos of one of the victims, sobbing. A woman in a head scarf is comforting her.

Around the building, armed police stand guard.

The Al Noor mosque has reopened for prayer.

The Al Noor mosque has reopened for prayer. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Meanwhile, the Imam of the Linwood mosque has also re-entered his building this afternoon for the official handover from police.

The Imam was joined by overseas dignitaries for the handover.

The cordon has also been removed but armed police remain on the scene.

It's unclear when the mosque will re-open.

Small gatherings of people stopped to pay their respects at the Linwood mosque all morning.

The mood both sombre and bright, as friends and family greeted each other as they arrived.

At 11am what started as a small family gathering turned into a crowd of more than 20, breaking out into prayer for their fallen family members and friends.

One man said he had come down from Auckland on Friday for the funeral of a family member and his friend, but wanted to visit the mosque before departing.

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