WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT The youngster was “actively” pursued by suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant after he massacred worshippers at a Christchurch mosque, witnesses say
A suspect in the New Zealand mosque shootings chased a terrified child down the street after massacring worshippers, witnesses say.
The youngster is thought to be dead after reportedly being pursued by the gunman, named as Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant.
At least 49 people have died after the country’s worst ever mass shooting unfolded at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.
The buildings were packed with worshippers when at least one gunman entered and opened fire, spraying bullets as people fled in terror.
The child, who has not been named, was allegedly targeted and killed after gun-wielding Tarrant, 28, emerged from one of the mosques.
The youngster was “actively” pursued down the street by the former personal trainer, witnesses told a New Zealand Herald reporter.
The victim, who is believed to have died, is reportedly among multiple children, some as young as five, caught up in the shootings.
One witness reported seeing a five-year-old boy’s body, while another recalled worshippers fleeing “for cover”, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said of the massacre: “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack .”
She also called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
The two devastating attacks were carried out at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in the city centre, and the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque.
Ms Ardern earlier said 30 people were killed at Al Noor, while 10 people are said to have been slaughtered inside and outside Linwood.
At least nine others also lost their lives in the massacres, according to New Zealand’s police force, who have put the death toll at 49.
It was earlier reported that a little girl was found fighting for life in her injured dad’s arms after both were shot at Al Noor.
The youngster, aged around five, was seen being “nursed” by her father on a path outside the mosque, according to a witness.
Carl Pomare, who came across the scene, described her as “critical”, saying he knew she would die if she wasn’t taken to hospital immediately.
“One girl looked about 5 years old, she was critical, and her father had also been shot,” the tradesman told Newstalk ZB .
He was nursing her. We were just thinking, ‘Come on ambulance, come on’.”
Mr Pomare, who had been driving past the massacre scene at the time, told Radio New Zealand he saw “people running for their lives”.
He also heard terrifying gunfire that sounded like fireworks going off.
“We saw these people hit the ground,” he said.
“They were being shot in front of us.”
Outside the mosque, around six or seven bodies were lying on a footpath. The victims included the unnamed little girl.
While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, Mr Pomare and other Good Samaritans decided time was running out to save the child.
Determined not to let her die, they lifted her into the back of a vehicle with her wounded father, before it sped off to hospital.
The tradesman described the youngster as “not in a good way”.
“We looked at it thinking we’ve got to get this little girl to the hospital now otherwise she’s going to die,” he recalled.
The girl’s condition is unclear.
Courageous Mr Pomare, of Naki Labour Hire, and fellow workers stayed at the scene for more than an hour, news.com.au reports.
They did so even as the shooter remained at large.
The witness described the massacre as “pretty scary”, but said that in such a situation, “you don’t think about yourself”.
The victims outside the Al Noor mosque also reportedly included a woman who was discovered dead by her distraught husband.
The husband, who did not wish to be named, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was praying at the building when he heard shots fired.
He escaped the attack – only to find his wife lying dead outside.
“My wife is dead,” he wailed to the newspaper.
Suspected gunman Tarrant, from Grafton, New South Wales, apparently live-streamed himself carrying out the attack on Facebook .
He also described his anti-immigrant motives in a sick manifesto.
Police have said one man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, and will appear in court in New Zealand on Saturday.
Authorities took three other people – two men and a woman – into custody in relation to the attacks and defused explosive devices.
When asked about the attackers not being on intelligence agency watchlists, Ms Ardern said it was an indication they “had not acted in a way that warranted it”.
Asked about the ages of victims, she said: “I will have been amongst other members of the public who will have seen the footage as the injured were being brought to Christchurch A&E and you certainly can see from that footage there is a real range of ages there.
“I imagine that these would have represented particular brothers, fathers, sons.”
She added: “We have undoubtedly experienced an attack today that is unprecedented, unlike anything that we have experienced before.
“But, as I say, New Zealand has been chosen because we are not a place where violent extremism exists.
“We reject those notions and we must continue to reject them. This is not an enclave for that kind of behaviour, for that kind of ideology.
“We will and must reject it. This is a place where people should feel secure and will feel secure.
I am not going to let this change New Zealand’s profile, none of us should.”
Officers responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at about 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).
They urged people in the area to stay indoors, while all schools in the city were put into lockdown.
Witness Mohan Ibrahim said he was among 200 people in the Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue when he heard gunfire.
He told the Herald: “At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running.”
Speaking earlier, he added: “I still have friends inside.”
“I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven’t heard from. I am scared for my friends’ lives.”
Others recalled desperately seeking cover as bullets flew through the air.
The guy was wearing like an army [suit],” one witness said.
“He had a big gun and lots of bullets. He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere.”
The Queen has sent a message of condolence to the people of New Zealand following the mosque attacks.
In her message to the Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy, Her Majesty said her prayers were with all New Zealanders.
She said in the message: “I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today. Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.
“I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured.
“At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders.”