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Survivors describe horror of mosque attacks

2019-03-16 HKT 08:27
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  • A witness said victims were shot point-blank at the Linwood mosque. Photo: AP
    A witness said victims were shot point-blank at the Linwood mosque. Photo: AP
Survivors of the Christchurch mosque shootings have recalled how elderly worshippers and children were gunned down as the heavily armed attacker targeted Muslims in New Zealand's worst massacre.

At least 49 people died and another 48 were injured in the assault on two mosques in the South Island city.

Anwar Alsaleh was preparing for Friday prayers at the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch - where 41 victims were killed - when the gunman walked in.

Anwar hid in a bathroom and tried to call emergency services as shots rang out, saying he heard the gunman say an expletive about Muslims and "We're going to kill you today."

At least another seven people died at the Linwood Avenue mosque, about five kilometres away, where Syed Mazharuddin said a man wearing body armour and a helmet opened fire.

"Just around the entrance door there were elderly people sitting there praying and he just started shooting at them," he told the New Zealand Herald. "There was a lady screaming and he shot her point blank in the face."

The attacker live-streamed the attack, with footage showing him firing repeatedly at worshippers as he moved from room to room.

Witnesses at the Al Noor mosque said the shooter was a white male with magazines of ammunition strapped to his legs. One told Radio New Zealand the gunman was very calm during the rampage.

Mirwaiz, an Afghan refugee who did not want to provide his surname, said he came close to death when a bullet grazed his head.

"He started shooting at our side of the room and I lay down on the floor as a bullet grazed my head. A couple of centimetres lower and I would be dead," he told stuff.co.nz, saying he fled from the mosque while the gunman's attention was elsewhere.

Others told of scrambling through broken windows and playing dead among the carnage in a bid to survive. (AFP)