Bullet-riddled New Zealand mosque to reopen for Friday prayers as more victims are buried

A workman at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 21, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CHRISTCHURCH (REUTERS) - The bullet-riddled Al Noor mosque in Christchurch is being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers, as grieving families buried more victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that Friday's (March 22) call to prayer 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 last Friday by a lone gunman who attacked worshippers 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 reopen. 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.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday (March 20) and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a schoolboy.

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

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 said on Thursday all 50 victims had now been identified, allowing burials to take place.

"I can say that as of a few minutes ago the identification process and to all 50 victims has been completed and all of the next of kin have been advised," said commissioner Mike Bush. "That is a landmark for this process."

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

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

Ms Ardern has vowed to change gun laws in the wake of the attack, possibly banning semi-automatic weapons. An announcement will be made before the next Cabinet meeting next Monday.

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.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.