Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque has reopened its doors, eight days after they were shuttered in the wake of the killing of 50 Muslims during the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
Officials at Al Noor, where more than 40 people were shot dead during the attack on March 15, started allowing small groups of people back into the complex to pray and pay their respects shortly after midday on Saturday.
Armed police stood guard at the gates of the complex, which were lined with flowers and messages of condolence, and by the mosque itself as returning worshipers and new visitors entered slowly, side-by-side.
Inside, amid the potent smell of newly-painted walls, visitors passed through an uncarpeted hallway as they headed to the prayer room, where the dull sobs of kneeling worshipers punctuated an otherwise pristine silence.
Linwood mosque, some 7km away, was yet to follow Al Noor’s suit after it also closed in the wake of the attack, suspected to have been carried out by a 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant.
Police have handed the complex back to the Muslim community, however, and shrunk security cordons around the site and at Al Noor. An armed security presence remains in force at both locations and at mosques around New Zealand.Russian Su-27 Escorted US B-52 Bombers Twice Over 24 Hours