Bangladesh have called off their tour of New Zealand after their cricketers came within moments of being caught up in a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques that left 49 dead and at least 40 wounded.
Team manager Khaled Mashud said his players were ‘really lucky’ after their bus — carrying 17 players and backroom staff to prayers — approached the Al Noor mosque in the city centre, where a gunman shot dead 30 of the victims at around 1.40pm local time.
He was later charged with murder, while two others were in custody. The tragedy was described by prime minister Jacinda Ardern as ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’, while Downing Street flew the New Zealand flag at half-mast alongside the Union flag.
Bangladesh cricket team narrowly avoided the Christchurch terror attack where 49 were killed
Bangladesh players took refuge in the bus for several minutes before deciding to flee to safety through Hagley Park, the venue for the third Test, which was scheduled to have begun last night.
‘We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque,’ said Mashud. ‘We were really lucky. Had we reached it even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque.
‘What we saw was straight out of a movie scene. We could see blood-stained people staggering out of the mosque.
Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots and police are responding to the incident at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country’s South Island
Bangladesh batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted about the team’s narrow escape from the shooting
Mushfiqur Rahim also tweeted about the massacre and the players’ fortunate escape
‘Maybe for about eight to 10 minutes we were all inside the bus with our heads bowed, in case someone fired at us. When we realised that the shooters could have inflicted more damage if they had found us inside the bus, we took a collective decision to escape through the back gate.
‘Our decision to get out was timely, because in videos we saw people came out and kept shooting later.
‘It is unfortunate as a human being to have witnessed this and that it’s causing us to pull out of a Test match.
The All Blacks rugby team tweeted their sympathies following the shooting in Christchurch
The Bangladesh cricket board tweeted to confirm the players were safely back in their hotel
One of the gunmen live-streamed the mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque, which happened at 1.30pm local time as Friday prayers were underway
One of the wounded from the mosque massacre is aided into an ambulance
‘When you see something like a terror attack in front of you, and you see blood spilled, this will affect you. Some of the boys inside the bus were crying, as they were worried about how to get out of there.’
News of the cricketers’ situation emerged when opening batsman Tamim Iqbal texted a Bangladeshi journalist covering the tour, saying: ‘There’s shooting here, please save us.’
On Twitter later, Tamim described the team’s experience as ‘frightening’.
The president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Nazmul Hassan, said he would push for better security on tours.
New Zealand had won the second Test between the two teams in Wellington earlier in the week
‘New Zealand is a country that no one expects such an incident there,’ he said.
‘We’ll demand proper security wherever our team goes in future. If a country provides proper security, then we will go, otherwise not.’
David White, the chief executive of New Zealand Cricket, said: ‘I spoke to my counterpart in Bangladesh and we agree it’s inappropriate to play cricket at this time. It’s unbelievable. We are shocked.’