Armed police guard mosques around New Zealand

Chris McKeen/Stuff
Strangers are uniting to place flowers at a Mt Albert mosque after a terror attack in Christchurch.

Armed police are stationed outside mosques across New Zealand after fatal shootings at two mosques in Christchurch

Police have asked mosques to close their doors and are urging people not to attend Friday prayers.

Flowers and notes of sympathy have been left outside mosques nationwide. 

While most mosques had followed police advice, Auckland's Masjid e Umar mosque remained open as evening prayer time approached. 

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The armed police presence had increased and a policeman at the gate said he was there so people inside felt safe. 

Members of the community have left flowers on the gate to show their support and sympathy.

White lilies and armed police outside Auckland's Ponsonby Mosque.
JOSEPHINE FRANKS/STUFF
White lilies and armed police outside Auckland's Ponsonby Mosque.

At Ponsonby Mosque in central Auckland, a bouquet of white lilies tucked in the fence and two armed police officers signalled Friday's attacks. 

The Imam of Auckland's Avondale Islamic Centre said his "heart was shaking" at the news of the attack. 

He said all events scheduled for the mosque this evening had been cancelled and all of Auckland's 25 mosques had been closed. 

Tributes to the fallen were chalked on the footpath outside the Hamilton Jamia Masjid Mosque.
MARK TAYLOR/Stuff
Tributes to the fallen were chalked on the footpath outside the Hamilton Jamia Masjid Mosque.

He had just finished leading prayer when he came out and was told the news.

He said the attackers chose the "prime time" to attack, when many people would have been at prayer. 

Outside Hamilton Mosque, people gathered to lay flowers and comfort one another

A woman perched on the footpath with a basketfull of chalk, etching colourful messages and drawings onto the concrete. 

"You are so precious," one message said, "You are our brothers and sisters," said another.  

Flowers and notes of support were left outside Hamilton's Mosque.
MARK TAYLOR/Stuff
Flowers and notes of support were left outside Hamilton's Mosque.

"I never expected this to happen in New Zealand," Waikato Muslim Association president Dr Asad Mohsin​ said.

"Knowing what sort of characteristics we have as a nation, we didn't expect that. Having said that, we had to be prepared for it."

Friday afternoon is an important prayer time for Muslim communities, he said, and there will have been gatherings in major mosques around New Zealand.

It was heartening to see the support of the wider community, he said.

"We see a reflection of these people when they write messages on the footpath, when they put flowers here, how loving people are."

Armed police guard a Invercargill Mosque as sisters Ruth Sears, and Jenny South lay flowers.
John Hawkins/Stuff
Armed police guard a Invercargill Mosque as sisters Ruth Sears, and Jenny South lay flowers.

​Tahir Nawaz, President of the International Muslim Association, said worshippers at the Kilbirnie mosque were 10 minutes away from finishing their prayers when he got a text informing him of the shooting.

"People got a bit shocked because we as New Zealanders we are not used to those sort of things, we have much tolerance here."

The mosque had a protocol in place: mourners were asked to file out individually and avoid leaving as a group and told to "restrict your activities today".

Under the watchful eye of an armed policeman, a pair of sisters laid flowers at a mosque in Invercargill.

Strangers came together to place flowers outside Mt Albert mosque.
Chris McKeen/Stuff
Strangers came together to place flowers outside Mt Albert mosque.

Sisters Jenny South and Ruth Sears put flowers outside the closed Southland Muslim Association's mosque.

South said she knew the area where the Christchurch shooting happened well.

A tearful Sears, who is a devout Christian, said the thought of a gunmen opening fire on people praying was horrible.

Sources say nine people have been confirmed dead and as many as 30 are feared dead after the shootings at the Masjid Al Noor on Deans Ave and the Linwood Masjid on Linwood Ave in Christchurch. 

Four people have been arrested and several improvised explosive devices had been in vehicles around the city. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was one of New Zealand's "darkest days".

"This was an act of extraordinary and unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand."

Stuff