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Mosque massacre hero 'wrestled gun from killer and forced him to flee in waiting car'

A horrified survivor of the New Zealand terror attack has told how a man tackled the gunman and stole one of his weapons before running away.

Syed Mazharuddin was praying on Friday at the Linwood Masjid mosque in Christchurch when he heard gunshots right in front of him.

He said he saw the shooter wearing protective gear and firing wildly before a young man attempted to tackle the gunman. 'He saw an opportunity and pounced and took his gun,' Mr Mazharuddin told The NZ Herald.

The young hero took the gun out of the shooter's hands and attempted to defend people in the mosque but couldn't figure out how to use the weapon, he said.

'The hero tried to chase 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,' Mr Mazharuddin added.  

Mr Mazharuddin said he tried to take cover when he noticed the gunman come in through the main entrance door where 60 to 70 people were praying. He said the gunman then opened fire on elderly people who were praying inside the mosque and he witnessed one of his friends die in the brazen attack after they were shot in the chest and head. 

An Australian white supremacist, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant from Grafton, livestreamed New Zealand's deadliest terror attack on Facebook. He is one of four people arrested over mosque attacks which left at least 49 dead and 48 injured.

Syed Mazharuddin (pictured) was praying on Friday at the Linwood Masjid mosque in Christchurch when he heard gunshots right in front of him

A man who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant (pictured) live-streamed the massacre of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand

Tarrant (pictured as a child in his late father's arms) live-streamed the shooting spree to his social media account

The gunman stormed the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island during Friday prayers about 1.30pm, opening fire with a semi-automatic shotgun and a rifle on about 100 defenceless worshippers.

The attack was broadcast in horrifying, live video which showed the suspect wielding at least two rifles. It followed the publication of a 73-page manifesto in which Tarrant laid out his racist, anti-immigrant views.

One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played.

'It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,' Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.

She pronounced it 'one of New Zealand's darkest days.'

The attack shocked people across the nation of 5 million people, a country that has relatively loose gun laws but is so peaceful even police officers rarely carry firearms.

Police arrested and charged one man aged 'in his late 20s' with murder. He is expected to face court Saturday. Pictured is Tarrant during a holiday in Pakistan

Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots and police are responding to the incident at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island. Pictured is a still from a live-stream of the shooting

A man wearing military fatigues (pictured) was arrested outside Papanui High School

At least one gunman has opened fire at a mosque in New Zealand , shooting at children and killing dozens of people

Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots and police are responding to the incident at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island

Timeline of terror: How the Christchurch shootings unfolded

Friday March 15, 1.30pm local time (12.30am GMT): Gunman identifying himself as Brenton Tarrant live-streams mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque as Friday prayers are underway. The Bangladesh cricket team were on their way to the mosque at the time.

Another shooting takes place at a mosque in Linwood, 3.5 miles to the east. 

1.40pm: Police respond to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch. People are urged to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour. Shortly afterwards, all schools in the city are placed into lockdown.

2.10pm: Police confirm they are attending an 'evolving situation' involving an 'active shooter'

3.30pm: Two explosive devices attached to a car are found and disarmed by a bomb squad at Strickland Street, not far from the Al Noor Mosque.

4pm: One person confirmed to be in custody. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says there have been 'multiple fatalities' at two locations - both mosques. Mosques across New Zealand urged to shut their doors.

4.10pm: Prime minister Jacinda Ardern calls it 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'.

5.30pm: Mr Bush says three men and one woman are in custody. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison confirms one of those arrested is Australian.

7.30pm: Ms Ardern says 40 are dead and more than 20 are seriously injured but confirms the offender is in custody 

National security threat level is lifted from low to high.

7.45pm: Britomart train station in central Auckland is evacuated after bags are found unattended. The bags were deemed not suspicious.

9pm: Death toll rises to 49 and Police Commissioner Bush reveals a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder. 

Police are not looking for any named or identified suspects, he says, but adds that it would be 'wrong to assume that there is no-one else'.

11.50pm: Investigation extends 240 miles to the south where homes are evacuated around a 'location of interest' in Dunedin.   

The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shooting sidentified himself as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

Using what may have been a helmet camera, he livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on worshippers at Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque, where at least 41 people were killed. An attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more.

Police did not identify those taken into custody and gave no details except to say that none of them had been on any watch list. They did not immediately say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.

At least 48 people, some in critical condition, were being treated at Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds, authorities said.

While there was no reason to believe there were any more suspects, the prime minister said the national threat level was raised from low to high. 

Police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand. And Air New Zealand canceled several flights in and out of Christchurch, saying it couldn't properly screen customers and baggage.

Police said the investigation extended 360 kilometers (240 miles) to the south, where homes in Dunedin were evacuated around a 'location of interest.' They gave no details.

Ardern alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that immigrants and refugees 'have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.'

As for the suspects, the prime minister said, 'these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.'

Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror. 

One of the gunmen live-streamed the mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque, which happened at 1.30pm as Friday prayers were underway

The self-proclaimed racist believed to have killed 49 people at a New Zealand mosque during Friday prayers apparently opened fire with rifles covered in white-supremacist graffiti and listened to a song glorifying a Bosnian Serb war criminal 

Survivors gather near the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Road hours after the place of worship was attacked

Peneha, who lives next door, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try to help the victims.

'I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,' he said. 'I don't understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It's ridiculous.'

He added: 'I've lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they're very friendly. I just don't understand it.'

He said the gunman was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

In the video that was apparently livestreamed, the gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes firing at people he has already cut down.

He then walks outside, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children's screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle. The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground.

Police escort distraught witnesses away from a mosque in central Christchurch following twin massacres

Armed police push back members of the public trying to reach the mosque to check on fellow worshippers

Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Manurewa in Auckland after the attack in Christchurch

After going back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song 'Fire' by the English rock band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown can be heard blasting. The singer bellows, 'I am the god of hellfire!' and the gunman drives away.

The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.

Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald that he heard about five gunshots and that a prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun. Nichols said he saw two wounded people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop.

The man who claimed responsibility for the Al Noor shooting said he was not a member of any organization, acted alone and chose New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of 'mass immigration.'

New Zealand is generally considered a welcoming country for migrants and refugees.

Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on a promise to take in more refugees, called the increase 'the right thing to do.'

Christchurch is home to nearly 400,000 people and is sometimes called the Garden City. It has been rebuilding since an earthquake in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed many downtown buildings.

Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the shootings were an 'unprecedented act of violence'

Worshippers in Bangledesh march through the streets of Dhaka to condemn the Christchurch mosque attacks 

In his manifesto, the gunman highlighted New Zealand's remoteness as a reason he chose it as a target of his attacks. 

He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.

He said he grew up in a working-class Australian family, had a typical childhood and was a poor student. A woman who said she was a colleague of his when he worked as a personal trainer in the Australian city of Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.

'I can't ... believe that somebody I've probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme,' Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Beyond his white nationalistic ideals, he also considers himself an environmentalist and a fascist who believes China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values. He has contempt for the wealthiest 1 percent. And he singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as the person who had influenced him the most. 

THE UPBRINGING OF A SHOOTER:

Brenton Tarrant, 28, grew up in Grafton, a small town in northern New South Wales.

Tarrant's father, who was a competitive athlete and completed 75 triathlons, died of cancer in 2010 aged just 49. His mother still lives in the area.

Tarrant attended a local high school and then worked as a personal trainer at the local Big River Squash and Fitness Centre from 2010.

A woman who knew Tarrant through the gym said he had always followed a strict dietary and exercise regime.

'He was very dedicated to his own training and to training others,' she said. 'He threw himself into his own personal training and then qualified as a trainer and trained others. He was very good.'

'When I say he was dedicated, he was dedicated more than most people would be.

'He was in the gym for long periods of time, lifting heaving weights. He pretty much transformed his body.'

The woman said she had not spoken to him or heard him talk about his political or religious beliefs.

'From the conversations we had about life he didn't strike me as someone who had any interest in that or extremist views,' she said.

'But I know he's been travelling since he left Grafton. He has been travelling overseas, anywhere and everywhere.

'I would say it's something in the nature of his travels, something he's been around.

'I know he's been to lots of different countries trying to experience lots of different things in life and I would say something's happened in that time in his travels.'

Shooters rampage began when he got into his car wearing military-style body armour and a helmet saying 'let's get this party started'

After retrieving one of at least six assault rifles stored in his car, he walked up to the front door and began firing at the first person he saw

In a tweet, Owens responded by saying that if the media portrayed her as the inspiration for the attack, it had better hire lawyers.

Throughout the manifesto, the theme he returns to most often is conflict between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades.

He wrote that the episode that pushed him toward violence took place in 2017 while he was touring through Western Europe. That was when an Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five. The Australian was particularly enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl in the attack.

He said his desire for violence grew when he arrived in France, where he became enraged by the sight of immigrants in the cities and towns he visited.

And so he began to plot his attack. Three months ago, he started planning to target Christchurch. He claimed not to be a direct member of any organization or group, though he said he has donated to many nationalist groups. He also claimed he contacted an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and got the blessing of Anders Breivik for the attack.

Breivik is a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011. Breivik's lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway's VG newspaper that his client, who is in prison, has 'very limited contacts with the surrounding world, so it seems very unlikely that he has had contact' with the New Zealand gunman. 

AOS (Armed Offenders Squad) push back members of the public following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque

Members of a family react outside the mosque following the shooting in Christchurch

Pictured: Grieving members of the public after the shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand

The gunman had a long wish list for what he hoped the attack would achieve. He hoped it would reduce immigration by intimidating immigrants. He hoped to drive a wedge between NATO and the Turkish people. 

He hoped to further polarize and destabilize the West. And he hoped to create more conflict over gun laws in the U.S., thus leading to a civil war that would ultimately result in a separation of races.

Though he claimed not to be a Nazi, in the video he livestreamed of the shooting the number 14 is seen on his rifle. That may be a reference to the '14 Words,' a white supremacist slogan attributed in part to Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf,' according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which 'has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups who traffic in neo-Nazi,' according to the center.

His victims, he wrote, were chosen because he saw them as invaders who would replace the white race. He predicted he would feel no remorse for their deaths. And in the video he livestreamed of his shooting, no remorse can be seen or heard. Instead, he simply says: 'Let's get this party started.'

Then he picks up his gun, storms into the mosque, and cuts down one innocent life after another.

When it is over, he climbs back into his car, where he has left his music playing — the song 'Fire' by the English rock band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. And right after the singer bellows, 'I am the god of hellfire!' the gunman drives away.

A floral tribute to the victims of the Christchurch massacres is seen on the same avenue as the second mosque

THE SHOOTER'S MANIFESTO

In a manifesto seemingly written by Tarrant and shared to Twitter, he mentions being inspired by other shooters including Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Oslo, Norway in 2011.

He said he 'disliked' Muslims and hated those who had converted to the religion, calling them 'blood traitors'.

Tarrant said he originally wanted to target a mosque in Dunedin, south of Christchurch, after watching a video on Facebook, but changed his mind. 

He said he had been planning an attack for up to two years and decided on Christchurch three months ago. 

The shooter said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the death of Swedish schoolgirl Ebba Akerlund, a girl who was killed in a terrorist attack in Stockholm in April 2017.

Tarrant said he was a supporter of Donald Trump as a 'symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose'. 

A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand

Police rushed to an Auckland train station after reports of abandoned backpacks. The bomb disposal robot (pictured) detonated a bomb in a 'controlled explosion' while commuters were cordoned off

Police escort people away from outside one of the mosques targeting in the shooting

A police officer photographs witnesses near the scene of one of the shootings

Witnesses inside the mosque reported seeing 15 people being shot, including children

A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath

He described himself as 'just a regular white man'.

He said he was born to 'working class, low-income family... who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people'.

'My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues,' he wrote. 

The gunman said he carried out the massacre to 'directly reduce immigration rates to European lands'. 

He said New Zealand was not his 'original choice' for the attack but said the location would show 'that nowhere in the world was safe'.  

He shared photos to his now-removed Twitter account ahead of the attacks, showing weapons and military-style equipment. 

Tarrant also cited conservative activist Candace Owens as his biggest influence, saying she helped 'push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness' - but claimed some of the 'extreme actions' she calls for are 'too much, even for my tastes'.

Witness Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described one of the shooters as being white, with blond hair and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest

The mosque has capacity to hold more than 300 people

'THERE WERE BODIES ALL OVER ME'

A world united in grief: Leaders around the globe express their horror at New Zealand mosque shootings 

Leaders from around the would have condemned the deadly attack at two New Zealand mosques that left 49 people dead. 

United States President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his condolences and pledge that the US would do 'anything we can' to help New Zealand. 

President Trump tweeted his 'warmest sympathy and best wishes' to the people of New Zealand after 'the horrible massacre in the Mosques'. He added that 'innocent people have so senselessly died. 'The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!'   

In the UK, the Queen said she was 'deeply saddened' by the attack while Prince Charles said he and his wife were 'utterly horrified' to hear about the 'barbaric' attacks. 

In a message to the Governor-General of New Zealand, the Queen said: '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.'

 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also shared their horror at the news. 

Pope Francis denounced the 'senseless acts of violence' in the shootings and said that he is praying for the Muslim community and all New Zealanders. 

Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway which saw 77 people killed in a far-right attack eight years ago, has expressed solidarity with New Zealand.

Mohammed Jama, the former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said a man with a gun entered the Christchurch Mosque about 1.40pm local time on Friday.

A man inside the mosque at the time of the shooting said there 'bodies all over me'.

Witnesses inside the mosque reported seeing 15 people being shot, including children.

A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath.

'My wife is dead,' he said while wailing.

Witness Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described one of the shooters as being white, with blond hair and wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.

'The guy was wearing like an army [suit]. He had a big gun and lots of bullets. He came through and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere,' Ahmad Al-Mahmoud told Stuff.

'They had to smash the door - the glass from the window and the door - to get everyone out.

'We were trying to get everyone to run away from this area. I ran away from the car park, jumping through the back [yard] of houses.'

Al-Mahmoud said the man was 'wearing a helmet' and must have fired 'hundreds' of gunshots.    

Another witness said he ran behind the mosque to call the police after hearing the gun go off. 

'I heard the sound of the gun. And the second one I heard, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque, rang the police. 

'I saw one gun on the floor. Lots of people died and injured.' 

Another survivor, identified only as Nour, told the New Zealand Herald that the gunman shot multiple worshipers outside before carrying out his rampage inside the mosque where he shot people indiscriminately.

HEROIC POLICE OFFICER INTERVENES 

A person suspected of being involved in the Christchurch mosque shooting was taken into custody on Friday afternoon in a dramatic roadside arrest.

Footage filmed by a passing motorist shows the suspect's grey station wagon wedged between the gutter and another police car, with its front wheels in the air spinning.

The suspect appeared to still be inside, as officers approached the vehicle with their weapons drawn.

One officer reached inside the vehicle and dragged a person out, as a second stood guard with their weapon drawn.

The suspect was seen wearing dark clothing, and in the footage an officer appears to have hit the person.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there were 'some absolute acts of bravery' during the arrests of four people.

The Bangladesh cricket team (pictured) were on their way to Al Noor Mosque when shooting broke out inside

 BANGLADESH CRICKET TEAM NARROWLY ESCAPED

Bangladesh players and support staff have been preparing for the third test of a series against New Zealand, set to begin on Saturday, and were walking through Hagley Park when shooting broke out at the Al Noor mosque.

Tweets from sports reporters and team members say the group 'just escaped' the shooting, which saw a man enter the mosque and fire multiple shots at dozens of people as they tried to flee. 

The team's opening batsman, Tamim Iqbal said on Twitter the 'entire team got saved from active shooters'.

He said it was a 'frightening experience' and asked supporters to keep the team in their prayers.

Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim said Allah had saved the team.

'We r [sic] extremely lucky,' he wrote. 'Never want to see this things [sic] happen again... pray for us.'

Shrinivas Chandrasekaran, the team's performance and strategic analyst said they had 'just escaped active shooters'. He said their hearts were pounding and there was 'panic everywhere'.

ESPN cricinfo correspondent Mohammad Isam told the New Zealand Herald the team were 'not in a mental state to play cricket at all,' following the horrific attack.

'I think they want to go back home as soon as possible. I'm speaking from experience, I'm speaking from what I've heard,' he said.

'Everyone is at the Hagley Park dressing room ... two players are back at the hotel. They didn't come out for the prayers so they are back at the hotel and the entire coaching staff are safe.'

The scheduled test between New Zealand and Bangladesh has been cancelled. 

A man was seen with bloodstains on his trousers near the mosque after the shooting, as 48 people are left with gun wounds

A police officer gestures to a person outside the mosque after the shooting in Christchurch

A witness told Radio New Zealand he heard shots fired and saw 'blood everywhere'. 

Mr Jama said four people were injured and that he saw two people lying on the ground. He did not know if they were alive or dead, Stuff reported.  

There may have been more than one shooter inside the mosque, the New Zealand Herald reported.

A man inside the mosque said he ran behind the building when he heard gunfire, One News reported.

He said he saw people lying on the ground in pools of blood. 

A woman told the Christchurch Star she lay down in her car as four or five men came running towards her before hearing gunfire moments later. 

Security expert Paul Buchanan told RNZ the killings were 'the worst terrorist attack' ever to take place in New Zealand. 

Members of the public react in front of the Al Noor Mosque as they fear for their relatives

Parents refuse to leave without their children as their school, Te Waka Unua School, was in lockdown for hours on Friday

A shirtless man speaks on the phone as an armed police officer patrols the area outside a mosque in Christchurch

Witnesses reported hearing as many as 50 gunshots at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island

Police urged people near the area to stay indoors and report suspicious behaviour, describing the incident as 'critical'

Shocked family members are seen standing out the front of the mosque, unsure whether their loved ones have survived

The gunman entered and opened fire while hundreds of people were inside the packed mosque for Friday prayers

A man who escaped the mosque during the shooting said he saw his wife lying dead on the footpath 

One of the worst mass shootings in history: New Zealand tragedy claims 49 lives - the same number of victims in 2016 Orlando nightclub slaughter and more than ISIS Tunisia attack 

On a grisly ranking table the Christchurch Mosque shootings equal Florida's Orlando nightclub shooting of 2016 and rank above the Sousse resort massacre in Tunisia in 2015, where 38 were killed.

The heinous acts have surpassed the Australian Port Arthur atrocity of 1996, when 35 were killed on the island - a former prison colony - as Martin Bryant fired rounds at tourists with an assault rifle.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand's history and is in ninth place as the world's deadliest shooting.

The worst in Europe was the Paris attack of November 2015 perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, who deployed bombs and guns to claim 130 victims. 

Though explosives were also used in these attacks, the primary weapons were Kalashnikov assault rifles, most infamously at the Bataclan venue during a heavy metal concert.

The United States's worst attacks were two of the most recent, the Las Vegas country music shooting and the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Steven Paddock let off more than 1,000 rounds as he murdered 58 people and injured hundreds more at a country music show in 2017. 

The Orlando attack on the Pulse gay nightclub of the year before was the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 2001 and perpetrated by 29-year-old Omar Mateen who had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

The fanatic killed 49 people after he had written on Facebook about his sympathies with IS fighters being shelled in Syria and Iraq. 

The deadliest shooting on the list not affiliated with Islamic terror was perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik, a white supremacist whose attack on a children's youth camp on a remote island sickened the world.

The neo-Nazi fired hundreds of rounds as he killed 67 people, one more died falling off a cliff, while another died of hypothermia trying to swim off the island.  

The worst in history are claimed by Al-Shabaab gunmen at the Garissa University College in Kenya in 2015. Shooters stormed the campus and slaughtered 148 people. 

The gunman's rifle and magazines reportedly had the names of other shooters who had killed people at mosques written on them.

A bomb was found in a grey Subaru Legacy three kilometres from the scene of the shooting on Strickland Street, The Guardian reported.

Another witness said people had to smash windows to escape the mosque.  

Twenty armed police officers cleared areas in the suburb of Linwood, and led about five men with their hands on their heads out of a building in the area. 

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the shooting was a 'serious and evolving situation'.

'Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,' he said.

'Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice. Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice.'

The lockdown ended after about three hours.  

The shooting happened near Cathedral Square where thousands of children were protesting for climate change action.

The protesting children were told to go home to ensure their safety.

New Zealand Police said armed officers were deployed to Hagley Park and at Christchurch Hospital.

A witness said they heard at least 50 gunshots and saw people lying on the ground.

Another witness said he saw a car chasing two people from outside the mosque along Deans Avenue.

He said the people in the car began shooting at the two people.

Two abandoned backpacks sparked another bomb scare at Auckland's largest train station. A bomb disposal robot was used to investigate the backpacks while pedestrians were cordoned off.

A 'controlled explosion' was heard soon after.

Christchurch Boys' and Girls' high schools were both been placed into lockdown. The restrictions were lifted hours later.

Parents of students at Christchurch Girls' High School were sent a text message telling them the lockdown was 'not an exercise'.  

The Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan and the city council placed its central city buildings into lockdown. 

Rugby star Sonny Bill Williams shared an emotional tribute to those killed in Friday's mosque shooting.

In a video posted to Twitter, a tearful Williams, who is a proud Muslim, said he 'couldn't put into words how I feel right now'.

The 33-year-old told followers he was sending prayers to the loved ones of those killed, and praying himself the victims would end up in paradise.

'Just sending my duas (prayers) and Mashallah (god willing) - everyone that's been killed today in Christchurch... your families ... [I'm] just sending my duas to your loved ones and Mashallah you guys are all in paradise,' he said.

'I'm just deeply, deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand.' 

One per cent of New Zealand's population of five million are Muslim, according to government statistics. 

Pictured: Bloodied bandages on the road after the shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch

Armed police officers were seen outside Christchurch Hospital after the shooting, remaining there through the night

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