Updated

March 15, 2019 17:30:05

Witnesses say the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch was so quiet “you could hear a pin drop” during Friday prayers — but then the silence was shattered by automatic gunfire as a man burst in and started murdering worshippers.

Key points:

  • Witnesses say a gunman who entered the Al Noor mosque fired dozens of shots indiscriminately inside the mosque
  • They say the attacker was wearing army-style clothing including a helmet
  • Multiple people are reportedly dead and several others injured

A man in a wheelchair who was at the mosque during the incident told news outlet TVNZ that he had not seen his wife, who was also inside the mosque this morning.

“It was very peaceful, calm and quiet, as it is when the sermon starts, [you could hear] a pin drop,” Farid Ahmed said.

“Then suddenly the shooting started. It started in the main room.

“I was in the side room, so I didn’t see who was shooting, but I saw that some people were running out to my room where I was in, I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping.

“It was at the moment I realised things were really serious.

“So I tried to get out and I pushed myself at the back where my car was, and from there I heard the shooting, it went on six minutes or more.

“I could hear screaming and crying, I saw some people drop dead, some people were running away.

“I was in a wheelchair, so I couldn’t get anywhere. He did his massacre inside the mosque.”

Carl Pomare was driving past the Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue when the shooting started.

“I saw people running for their lives. Next thing we heard was rapid fire, like semi-automatic rifle,” he told the ABC.

“People were running right opposite my car. I saw people being shot in the back in front of me.

“We pulled up about 100 metres beyond there. We formed a cordon to stop people from coming there.”

Mr Pomare said he and his work colleagues got out of their cars to help those injured, including a father and his five-year-old daughter who had both been shot.

“I don’t know if she survived. We had people dying in front of us,” he said.

“My colleague Mark was holding a guy, telling him ‘it’s going to be OK’, but he died in his arms.”

Mr Pomare said they were some of the first bystanders to jump in to help before emergency services arrived.

Police asked him to help secure the area while they were looking for the attackers.

He said ambulances were initially stopped from entering the site.

“There were people we could have taken to the hospital and we couldn’t,” he said.

Ahmad Al-Mahmoud told Stuff.com the gunman was wearing army-style clothing, including a helmet, and sprayed the interior of the mosque with gunfire.

“He [had] a big gun, and a lot of pellets, and he came through and he started shooting everyone in the mosque, like everywhere,” he said.

“And they had to smash the door, the glass in the small door, and everyone tried to get out — so we were trying to get everyone to run away from the area.”

He said the attacker fired at least 40 shots.

Another witness, Len Peneha, who has lived next door to the mosque for about five years, said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque at about 1:45pm and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

He said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” Mr Peneha said.

“It’s unbelievably nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

‘I saw people drop dead in front of me’

A man who asked to be known only as Nour told the Christchurch Star he was in the front row of prayers when a gunman came in. He had to crawl to safety.

“First he shot people outside. Then he came in the front,” he said.

Nour said he heard the gun being reloaded about three times and the gunman was shooting in all directions.

“I saw people drop dead in front of me. I was crawling to get away,” he said.

Nour said he crawled across the floor of the mosque to a window that had been broken by others as they fled and jumped through it.

Ramzan Ali, who was also inside the Al Noor mosque during the shooting, said he was the last man to come out of the mosque.

“The Sheikh was giving the sermon on Friday prayers and it was 1:42[pm] and the gun starts shooting and he just came in and he was shooting ad hoc,” he told a reporter from Newshub.

“Actually, I haven’t seen him because I just lie down under the bench thinking that if I get out I’ll get [shot], so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed so I could be alive.

“I was the last guy to come out of the mosque after the shooting stopped and on the [floors] there were a lot of bodies.

“The blood was splashing on me and I thought, ‘oh my God, what’s going to happen to me now? But fortunately I’m alive”.

Janine Richmond, who lives near the mosque, said she heard about 20 gunshots.

“It started off quite slowly and then got very rapid,” she told New Zealand media.

Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired.

The witness also said at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.

ABC/wires

Topics:

murder-and-manslaughter,

law-crime-and-justice,

terrorism,

police,

new-zealand

First posted

March 15, 2019 14:47:54

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