People caught up in the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand have spoken of their terror as the massacre unfolded. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the shooting an "unprecendented attack of violence".
He was living in Dunedin, a seaside city south of Christchurch, has traveled around the world and spent sporadic periods in New Zealand.
"People started to pass by us with blood stains on their clothes, they were very scared and their voices were trembling, some people could not even speak", restaurant manager Prakash Sapkota, who was near the mosques, told Euronews.
This is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history.
Law enforcement officials in other cities across the country, including NY and Los Angeles, have also said they are increasing security forces at mosques in response to the shooting.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
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. "It has no place in New Zealand", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweeted.
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"The mere fact. that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I'm committing to that", she said.
CNN cites a 2015 study that reported New Zealand had an adjusted rate of about 1 gun death per 100,000 people, while in 2017, the United States has an adjusted rate of 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
The visiting Bangladesh cricket team narrowly avoided the shooting after arriving at the mosque for prayers.
A witness described the sound of gunfire breaking out just as the prayer leader began his sermon at a mosque.
The Muslim Community Center, which operates a mosque on the North Side and schools in Morton Grove and Skokie, said in a statement that it planned to hire extra security patrols and advised its members, "Please be vigilant by keeping your eyes and ears open and being aware of your surroundings". As New Zealand has stood by us so we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and with Muslims in New Zealand, here in the United Kingdom and around the world.
The attack shocked the local Muslim population, many of whom had come to New Zealand as refugees.
Christchurch is home to almost 400,000 people and is sometimes called the Garden City.