People who were inside a Christchurch mosque when a gunman opened fire have described seeing others around them, including children, dying and injured as they fled the terrifying scene with “blood everywhere”.
Syed Ahmed was among those worshipping at a mosque on the New Zealand city’s Linwood Avenue on Friday afternoon when he said a man wearing a black motorcycle helmet and camouflage clothing began shooting from outside.
At least 49 people were been killed in the attack, with as many as 48 others injured.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “it is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack”.
She called the tragedy “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
Mr Ahmed told NZ news site Stuff saw at least eight people were shot, the first being elderly people sitting on chairs as they prayed.
“They were basically all shot,” he said.
The shooter was “shouting something” which Mr Ahmed couldn’t hear over the sound of screams, before he crawled into a storeroom to get away.
Sabir Hussain told Stuff he was praying at the same mosque when he heard the imam (leader of the mosque) say “our brothers have been shot”.
He went into the washroom where he saw a man dead outside, prompting him to jump out a window and hide behind a fence until police arrived.
Witness pretended to stop breathing to escape death
A witness, with blood splatters across his shirt, told AAP the shooter changed magazines seven times after opening fire as the crowd gathered to pray at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue.
“When the shooting started people started rushing out, and the door was closed, and the guys came on them and started shooting them,” he said, describing how he hid under a bench and pretended to stop breathing.
- Australian Muslims warned to be vigilant after Christchurch terror attack
- Four arrested, ‘dozens dead’ after gunman opens fire on mosque
- One of New Zealand’s ‘darkest days’ PM says
- Gunman live streams Christchurch mosque massacre
“He went to all the different [rooms] and he shot everyone.”
Several hundred people were inside and witnesses reported seeing “blood everywhere”.
Others described seeing as many as 40 people injured.
Man flees mosque to find wife shot dead
One man at the same mosque said he watched as children were shot before him, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“There were bodies all over me,” he added.
One man escaped the massacre only to find his wife dead on the footpath, according to the newspaper.
Eyewitnesses described seeing “blood everywhere”, according to Radio New Zealand.
Another man told the local radio station five people were killed, including a five-year-old boy, in a shooting that lasted about 20 minutes.
The eyewitness said about 300 people were in the mosque at the time, with many trying to find places to hide. He estimated between 30 to 50 people wounded on the ground.
Tradies try to save little girl and dad outside mosque
A tradesman who was passing by the Masjid Al Noor mosque as the massacre was unfolding revealed how he and colleagues tried to save a young girl and her father who were badly wounded.
He told Radio New Zealand he saw “people running for their lives” and heard “rapid fire” from a semi-automatic weapon.
“We saw these people hit the ground, they were being shot in front of us,” he said.
The workers stopped about 100 metres from the mosque to the help victims.
“We managed to get the five-year-old on the back of one of the vehicles before the ambulance came, she was critical,” he told New Zealand Radio.
The tradie said the father died in his workmate’s arms.
The Linwood Avenue mosque is one of two which have been subject to a shooting, with another taking place at a mosque on Deans Avenue.
Len Peneha, who lives next door to the latter, said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque about 1.45pm.
‘I saw dead people everywhere’
Mr Peneha then heard dozens of shots as people ran out in terror while others went into the mosque to help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said.
A total of three men and one woman have been arrested. One man, aged 28, has now been charged with murder and will appear in a Christchurch court tomorrow.
“We are dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events in the Christchurch-Canterbury area,” police chief Mike Bush said.
“They involve an active shooter. They involve multiple fatalities.”