They’re often solemn, peaceable locations of prayer and reflection.
However on Friday two mosques in central Christchurch had been scenes of murderous carnage within the worst mass capturing to hit New Zealand.
Witnesses informed of their terror after the gunman, believed to be Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, stormed afternoon prayer classes, spraying bullets on the many and the harmless over 60 horrifying minutes.
Tarrant was indiscriminate, capturing males, ladies and “very young” youngsters, fuelled by his hatred and extremist views. Lots of these focused had been new migrants or refugees — a gaggle of individuals Tarrant appeared obsessive about in a manifesto he launched to justify the atrocity.
Piles of our bodies, together with these of kids, littered the bottom inside seconds, as Tarrant mowed down individuals as they tried to flee to security.
Appalling footage filmed from Tarrant’s standpoint, and posted dwell to social media, revealed the horrific scale of his cowardly act, as he first fired bullets right into a crowd of lots of.
Final night time at the very least 49 individuals had been murdered. An extra 48 individuals had been taken to the close by Christchurch Hospital with gunshot wounds.
No less than 20 had been preventing for his or her lives as medical doctors labored in 12 simultaneous working theatres, in what authorities described as unprecedented.
Worshippers informed how they ran for his or her lives because the bullets flew — some mendacity nonetheless to idiot the gunmen they’d died.
Armed with semi-automatic weapons and bombs, Tarrant first stormed the Masjid Al Noor mosque, on Deans Ave, within the metropolis’s centre, a picturesque location overlooking a sea of public gardens at 1.33pm native time (11.33am SA time).
Within the quiet, leafy suburb of Riccarton, the place as much as 500 of Christchurch’s 2000 Muslim inhabitants had gathered to wish, gunshots echoed because the chaos unfolded 10 minutes into the prayer service.
“I was thinking that he must run out of bullets. I was basically waiting for that and praying to God, oh God please let this guy run out of bullets,” mentioned one worshipper who was too frightened to provide his identify.
“When it stopped, the primary time I went, one man was sitting out simply beside a wall. He informed me ‘no, no’ and I went again once more the place I used to be. The following factor the man got here and shot this man who informed me to not get out.
“That was a tragic second and I do know that man, and he shot him straight within the chest.”
Even these operating late to prayers didn’t escape.
Tarrant shot his first sufferer earlier than he even walked by means of the door.
Bloodied and in shock, worshipper Ramzan Ali informed how he prayed he wouldn’t die in the course of the assault.
“(The cleric) was giving sermon at Friday prayers … when the guns started shooting,” he mentioned. “And he (Tarrant) got here in, he was capturing advert hoc.
“I really hadn’t seen him (the shooter) as a result of I simply lied down on the bench. I assumed ‘If I get up I will be shot’.
“I used to be conserving my fingers crossed so I could possibly be alive.”
One other witness, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud, 37, informed how Tarrant shot victims at random.
“They had to smash the door, the glass and window to get out,” he mentioned.
“We were trying to get everyone to run away from that area because we couldn’t open the door for everyone.”
Indian restaurant supervisor Prakash Sapkota, whose enterprise is close by, watched barefoot individuals operating previous lined in blood.
“I was at the counter and we started seeing a lot of people with no shoes running and crying with a lot of blood,” he mentioned.
“People were scared. We had to close our shop and we are staying here until we can leave.”
Authorities final night time mentioned at the very least 41 individuals died at that Masjid Al Noor mosque.
Tarrant, and presumably accomplices, then travelled to Linwood Masjid mosque, 6.9km away on the opposite facet of town. Right here it was the aged that Tarrant killed first.
These with knees too stiff to crouch on the ground had been seated in plastic chairs behind the corridor. “They were basically all shot,” witness Syed Ahmed mentioned.
He described “indiscriminate shooting” — no objective, no management, simply fixed offloading of a machine gun.
Ahmed, who escaped by crawling throughout the bottom to cover in a storeroom, mentioned he noticed one particular person shot within the head and at the very least three ladies mendacity on the ground.
Len Peneha mentioned he heard dozens of pictures and went into the mosque to assist.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he mentioned.
“I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Mohan Ibrahim was contained in the mosque when the capturing started. He thought it was an electrical shock “but then all these people started running”.
“It’s a big mosque and there were more than 200 people inside,” he mentioned. “The gunmen came from the backside. Gunshots went on for a long time.”
Vigils had been final night time being held throughout town, at any church and each denomination.
– With Kieran Rooney