An image grab from TV New Zealand taken on March 15, 2019 shows armed New Zealand special forces arriving outside the mosque following a shooting in Christchurch. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: As New Zealand witnessed its deadliest terrorist attacks in recent history, one of the eye witnesses of the attack at Linwood Mosque in Christchurch spoke to Gulf News about how he narrowly escaped death. This is his account of one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.

"I was at the Linwood mosque ten minutes before prayer time. We reached the mosque at around 1.35pm in the afternoon and the prayer usually starts at 1.45pm. We were in the first row and once the prayer started, we heard a shot outside the mosque.

No one expected a shooting, of course, so the prayer continued. Then there was a second shot and then a third. After the fourth shot, the imam left the prayer and went to the window.

He could see people dead outside and an attacker. That’s when he started yelling, “Gunfire, lie down!” So we all lay down on the floor expecting the gun fire. The man came into the mosque and was standing at the entrance of the gate holding a gun, it looked like a semi-automatic weapon. He started shooting at the women on the left. At the right hand side, there were around 30 of us. I was in the corner, which is why I was saved. There were a lot of people trying to come to the corner who got killed. We could not go anywhere else, there was only one way out, where the gunman was standing. He was blindly shooting everyone.

That is when, by Allah’s blessing, a man – I think he was Afghan – attacked him from the side. The gunman panicked and dropped his gun. The man chased him out as well but he fled with other people.

We were in shock and continued to lie low. After a few minutes we tried to call the police. The line was busy because there were a lot of calls going around, which is expected.

It was a shocking moment for us. When the Swat team arrived, they also fired in the air and we got scared because we thought the gunmen were still outside. They later came in and calmed us down and said they had fired in the air to scare any potential attackers.

They then took us out of the mosque, and I saw around seven people who had died in the mosque and right outside. The police emptied the bakery across the street and asked us to sit there. A policewoman took our accounts and photographs. We were not allowed to go back to get our shoes or our cars. They arranged a bus for us to get back home.

It has been over 11 hours and I still do not know what happened. But I think New Zealanders are more shocked than I am. Since I have returned, I have received messages and calls from my colleagues from the management and company leaders. They are saying, “We are sorry. This is not what New Zealand is, this is not who we are.” They are not able to believe this has happened here.

I don’t know how we are going to recover from this. There has been a big number of causalities. May Allah help us.

- Mohammad Zaid is an Indian working in Christchurch, New Zealand since October 2017.