Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, who are currently touring New Zealand, had a narrow escape today when gunmen opened fire at the mosque in Christchurch where they were going to offer their Friday prayers. Nearly 50 people died in the attacks on two mosques. The Christchurch Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand scheduled to start on Saturday has been called off.
On Friday, the team members were about to enter the Masjid Al Noor when a woman warned them that the mosque was under attack. The players then got inside a bus and laid down on the floor, The Daily Star reported.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh Cricket Team, told Reuters.
The players managed to make their way back to the Hagley Oval cricket ground, a kilometre away from the mosque, and were later escorted back to their hotel. The incident has left the players shocked.
“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” spokesman Jalal Yunus told AFP.
According to reports in Bangladesh media, there was no police for the security of the cricket team when they went to the mosque, and that there was no local liaison officer either.
“When any team comes to our country to play, we have to give them security the way they want it. We have not got any safety (when we go to other countries). In fact, we do not even insist on this. Other countries do not say anything about this. Maybe New Zealand could not think such an incident can occur there. It was shocking that the police took so much of time to arrive at the crime scene. They were probably unprepared. Maybe, they will be more careful about this now,” news portal Prothomalo.com quoted Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan as saying.
Hassan said the BCB would now demand full-proof security of its team whenever they would play in a foreign country. The team would not play in countries that would fail to ensure security, he added.
Meanwhile, the Christchurch Test was called off after the shootings. Hassan said the foreign minister had assured the board of bringing back the cricketers home at the earliest.
Bangladesh were to play the third Test against New Zealand from 16 March, and the decision to call it off was taken after discussions between New Zealand Cricket (NZC) and the BCB.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by the shocking situation in Christchurch. A joint decision between NZC and the @BCBtigers has been made to cancel the Hagley Oval Test. Again both teams and support staff groups are safe,” NZC said in a tweet.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by the shocking situation in Christchurch. A joint decision between NZC and the @BCBtigers has been made to cancel the Hagley Oval Test. Again both teams and support staff groups are safe.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) March 15, 2019
In his statement, David Richardson, CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC), said: “Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of those affected by this horrendous incident in Christchurch. Both teams, staff and match officials are safe and the ICC fully supports the decision to cancel the Test match.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the events “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
The Bangladesh players took to social media to tell fans and family that they were safe.
Asking everyone to pray for the cricketers, senior batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted: “Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers #christchurchMosqueAttack”
Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers #christchurchMosqueAttack
— Tamim Iqbal Khan (@TamimOfficial28) March 15, 2019
Test captain 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.”
The New Zealand Cricket said arrangements were being made for the return of the Bangladesh team home as soon as possible.
Other than Masjid Al Noor, the attackers targeted the Linwood Masjid. Four persons had been arrested till last reports came in.