Ramzan Ali said he was among 300 people attending Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, when a gunman burst through the front door.
The 62-year-old is believed to be the last to get out alive in the nation’s deadliest terror attack, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Ali told the news organization that the shooting started as the sermon was underway. Worshipers started to run to all doors. But it was hard to break free because the gunman entered through the main entrance and there were only two other doors on the sides.
“He just started shooting, ‘Bang, bang, bang,’ he told the Herald. “My cousin was sitting beside me and he got hit in his leg.”
The gunman was identified by police as Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist who livestreamed his massacre on a 17-minute video. Two others have been detained after the carnage and Tarrant was charged with murder.
Tarrant arrived at the mosque by vehicle with at least three guns in his car. He parked and began video-recording with British military music playing from the stereo.
“Let’s get this party started,” he said.
Survivors described a terrifying scene to local media outlets, saying the gunman was shooting everyone in sight — including elderly people worshiping at the front of the room. People hid behind cars once they got outside. “Piles of bodies” were left inside, survivors said.
Ali told the Herald the shooting spree stopped and restarted seven times as the gunman reloaded his ammunition.
He said he kept hoping for the gunman to run out of bullets, but tried to escape the assault as it was underway. Ali told the newspaper that another man sitting near the door gestured for him to come toward him to try to get out of there.
The shooter was watching, Ali said, and shot the man in the chest. “Right in front of me,” he said.
Ali then dove through a window that had already broken during the massacre and plunged himself into an adjacent park.
“I was the last person to get out of the mosque alive,” he said.
Nour Tavis, who was sitting in the front row during the service, told the publication that he also jumped out of a window. “It was the only way to escape,” he said. “I followed.”
Tavis said he climbed a fence and banged on a neighbor’s house. After he entered the home, he saw another victim inside who had been shot at the mosque. He then tried to return to the mosque to help others. “There were people bleeding to death,” he told the newspaper. “It was terrible.”
One worshiper is credited with courageously trying to tackle to the gunman, who wore protective gear.
A survivor, Syed Mazharuddin, credited the young man, who he said usually takes care of the mosque, as being a “hero.” He did not identify the man by name in a Herald story.
“He saw an opportunity and pounced on (the gunman) and took his gun,” Mazharuddin said.
“The hero tried to chase him and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled.”
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