Survivors describe harrowing escape from attack on New Zealand mosques

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Survivors scrambled for their lives, scaled fences and hid beneath benches as two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, came under terrorist attack from at least one heavily armed shooter Friday.

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Ramzan Ali said he was in one of the two mosques when the shooting began. He told The Associated Press the sheikh had just begun Friday prayers when the shooting broke out. He hid under a bench and didn’t move until the gunfire stopped.

“I was the last guy to come out of the mosque after the shooting stopped and on the doors there were a lot of bodies,” Ali said.

PHOTO: People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019.AP
People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019.

Once the shooting had stopped, at least 49 people were dead. Forty-one people were killed at the Deans Avenue mosque, Masjid Al Noor, while another seven were killed a few miles away at Linwood Masjid Mosque. Another person died at Christchurch Hospital.

“I’d never heard a gunshot, ever,” Mulki Abdiwahab, 18, told TVNZ. She and her parents had gone to pray at the Deans Avenue mosque Friday afternoon. “I thought at first it must have been somebody banging on the window.

“My mum grabbed my hand and then we just we ran outside,” she said. “Everyone was in chaos, just running for their lives.”

Police have not said whether the same shooter opened fire at both mosques. Three people were in custody, but only one — an Australian national — had been charged with murder as night fell in New Zealand.

The “very well-planned” attack was filmed on a Facebook livestream — with it tracking the shooter’s footsteps leading up to and including the gunfire at Deans Avenue.

“I heard what I thought was fireworks and I saw a bunch of fellas running down the street,” a woman who was driving by the mosque told TVNZ. “Then all of a sudden it got violent, and they started falling. And one fell to left of my car and one fell to right.”

PHOTO: People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019.AP
People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019.

Worshippers at the Deans Avenue mosque, including Ali, fled immediately after hearing the sound.

“After three, four minutes, we heard the firing and it was from the main entrance, the main entrance of the building, and then everybody just ran to the back doors just to save themselves,” Mahmood Nassir told the AP. “And first we hide behind the cars and you know, under the cars. … We tried to jump the fence.”

Nassir continued, “And when the firing stopped, I just have a look from over the fence, there was one guy changing the gun and taking the other one — because he parked on this side driveway next to the mosque house — and he just take the gun and then the firing started again, you know.”

PHOTO: A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.AP
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Christchurch Hospital said it had taken in 48 people injured by gunfire, including one who later died. The range of injuries were from minor to critical, a hospital spokesperson said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said earlier in the evening that 20 of the injured had what were considered “serious.”

“I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping,” eyewitness Farid Ahmad told the AP. “At that moment I realized it was really serious.”

ABC News’ Matt Foster and Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

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