New Zealand marks one week since mosque attack with prayers, headscarves

 New Zealand marks one week since mosque attack with prayers, headscarves

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) - New Zealanders on Friday marked one week since a mass shooting killed 50 Muslim worshippers in the South Island city of Christchurch, holding nationwide prayers and wearing headscarves to show their support for the devastated community.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead thousands of mourners expected to gather at Hagley Park in front of the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died.

The Muslim call to prayer at 1.30 p.m. (0030 GMT) will be broadcast nationally, followed by two minutes of silence.

Ardern, who has labelled the attack as terrorism, announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws on Thursday.

The prime minister is expected to be accompanied in the Christchurch prayers with community leaders and other foreign dignitaries.

Most victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's population, most of whom were born overseas.

The #headscarfforharmony movement, launched by an Auckland doctor, encouraged people to wear headscarves on Friday to show their support for the Muslim community.

Robyn Molony, 65, was with a group of friend wearing headscarves at Hagley Park, where they walked daily.

“We are wearing headscarves showing our support, love and solidarity, and hope that by everybody doing this it will demonstrate to Muslim women ... that they are one with us," she said.

Images of a grieving Ardern wearing a black headscarf as she visited families of the victims a day after the attacks were broadcast around the world.

Some women in the capital Wellington were also seen wearing headscarves on their morning commute.

SECURITY HIGH

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks and police said there would be a "heightened presence" on Friday to reassure those attending weekly prayers.

Officers dotted around Christchurch wore green ribbons pinned to their chests as a sign of peace and solidarity.

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.

Newspapers across the country ran full-page memorials with the names of the victims, and a call for national mourning.

"A call to prayer...in unity there is strength," New Zealand Herald said on its front page.

Candlelight vigils continued until late on Thursday across the country, while volunteers prepared the bodies of the deceased for a mass burial that expected after the prayers.

“All the bodies are washed. We finished around 1.30 a.m. this morning. It was our duty. After we finished there was a lot of emotion, people were crying and hugging," said a body washer in Christchurch who gave his name as Mo.

(Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2019 05:06:23 IST