Thousands expected in Christchurch for Friday prayers one week after mass shooting

The imam of one of two mosques attacked last week says he expects thousands of people will come together in Christchurch for Friday prayers, including many from out of town.

Call to prayers will broadcast across New Zealand, followed by 2 minutes of silence

Mourners lay flowers near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, March 21. (Vincent Thian/Associated Press)

Thousands of people are expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack.

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

Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at the prayer service, including many who have come from abroad to be with members of Christchurch's Muslim community and to attend funerals.

Fouda said he has been discussing plans for the prayer with city officials and lawmakers and expects it will take place in Hagley Park, a city landmark across from the Al-Noor mosque, where at least 42 people were killed. Members of the Linwood mosque, where the gunman killed at least seven people, also would attend the joint prayer, he said.

A man sits on the sidewalk after attending the burial ceremony of some of the victims of the mosque attacks. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

Al-Noor workers have been trying feverishly to repair the destruction at the mosque, Fouda said. There are plans to bury the blood-soaked carpet on which so many people died. 

"They will bury the carpet," he said. "Because it is full of blood, and it's contaminated."

Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.

"The support we have been getting from New Zealand and the community has been amazing," he said.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since last Friday's attack.

"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.

Policemen take off their caps as a hearse carrying a victim of the mosque attacks drives past during a burial ceremony at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch Thursday. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

"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 plan to reopen. 

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

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, 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.

Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

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.

Workers walk outside a crime scene tent at Linwood mosque in Christchurch. The mosque plans to re-open. (Vincent Thian/Associated Press)

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

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

With files from Reuters