Witnesses described the horrific scenes and the carnage left behind after a gunman opened fire in two New Zealand mosques, slaughtering at least 49 people attending Friday prayers in Christchurch.
The shootings were carried out Friday afternoon when a gunman stormed Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m., killing 41 people.
“I saw people drop dead in front of me,” a witness described the Christchurch Star. “I was crawling to get away.”
The witness, who was only identified as Nour, told the newspaper he was sitting in the front row during the prayers when the gunman stormed the building.
“First he shot people outside. Then he came in the front,” Nour said.
The man said he heard the attacker reload his weapon about three times before Nour managed to crawl across the floor of the mosque to a broken window, where he made his escape.
“A gunman came in with an automatic gun and opened fire, spraying it from side to side,” the witness said.
Mohan Ibrahim was one of about 200 people inside Al Noor mosque when he said he heard the first shots ringing out.
“At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running,” Ibrahim told the New Zealand Herald.
Speaking with the Associated Press, Len Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the building and dropped a weapon on his driveway before fleeing the area.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” Peneha told the news agency. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Another man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond and was wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.
“He had a big gun … he came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,” said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.
Another seven people were killed in a second attack at the Linwood mosque about five kilometres away, an eighth person died in hospital.
“By the time I took cover, this guy came in the main entrance, it’s a small mosque, about 60 to 70 people there,” a Linwood mosque witness described to the Herald. “Just around the entrance door, there were old people sitting on the chairs and praying and he started shooting at them.
“There was a lady screaming ‘Help! Help!’ and he shot her point-blank in her face,” the man said.
Mulki Abdiwahab, 18, described fleeing the mosque barefoot with her mother.
“My mom grabbed my hand and then we just we ran outside. Everyone was in chaos, just running for their lives,” the woman told New Zealand’s 1 News. “We just kept running, and running. The gunshots kept going on for about a good 10 minutes.”
Abdiwahab estimated hearing about 100 gunshots.
“It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It kept going,” she said.
Police arrested one man, who was charged with murder in connection to the attacks. Police said two others were taken into custody. Police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved.
–With a file from Reuters