Members of the Bangladesh cricket team arrived by bus at Masjid Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers when they heard gunshots.
Had they arrived a few minutes earlier they would have been inside the mosque, where at least 30 people were killed by a gunman with an automatic rifle. Another nearby mosque in Christchurch was being attacked, too, and overall 49 people were killed and more than 20 seriously injured.
Police charged one person, detained three others, and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.
When the bus carrying some players and coaching staff arrived at the mosque, they heard but did not see the shootings, Mohammad Isam, a journalist traveling with the Bangladesh team, told The Associated Press.
The players were kept on the bus by police, then later allowed to leave and to walk to nearby Hagley Oval, where they were to begin the third cricket test against New Zealand on Saturday, but the match has since been cancelled.
The players eventually returned to their hotel shaken, distressed, and in no mental state to consider playing cricket, Isam said.
Bangladesh was expected to fly home on Saturday.
Team manager Khaled Mashud told espncricinfo.com the players had a lucky escape.
“We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque. I would say we were really lucky,” Mashud said. “Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque. This could then have been a massive incident.”
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
Performance analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekaran, also on Twitter, posted: “Just escaped active shooters. Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere.”
Player Mushfiqur Rahim posted “Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque … we r extremely lucky … never want to see this things happen again … pray for us”
New Zealand Cricket said all players and support staff were “safe and accounted for.”
“On behalf of New Zealand Cricket heartfelt condolences to those affected,” chief executive David White said. “I’ve spoken to my counterpart at Bangladesh cricket – we agree it’s inappropriate to play cricket at this time. Both teams are deeply affected.
“We are shocked and appalled … and we are offering support to all those within the teams affected by the situation.”
International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said it “fully supports the decision to cancel the test match.”
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by this horrendous incident in Christchurch,” Richardson said.
The test match in Christchurch was the first to be cancelled since 2002, when a match between Pakistan and New Zealand in Karachi was called off after a terrorist bombing in the city.
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