Christchurch: The Bangladesh cricket team’s tour of New Zealand was Friday called off after the players had a narrow escape from a shooting attack on a mosque here, described as an “unprecedented act of violence” by the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden.
The attack on the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park killed several people, the local media reported.
The Bangladesh team, which was about to enter the mosque to offer prayers, escaped unscathed but the prevailing situation led to the authorities calling off the third and final Test match starting Saturday.
The match was the tour finale for the visitors.
“All members of the Bangladesh Cricket Team in Christchurch, New Zealand are safely back in the hotel following the incident of shooting in the city. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is in constant contact with the players and team management,” the BCB said in a statement on its Twitter page.
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“The (Bangladeshi) cricketers are set to leave New Zealand in the first available flight,” Bangladeshi news agency BSS quoted team manager Khaled Masud Pilot as saying.
“They are all safe but they remain distraught. They can’t forget what happened just in front of their eyes,” he added.
Bangladesh’s Indian Performance analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekeran, a Chennai-based computer-engineer-turned-cricket-analyst, also spoke about the incident on social media. Chandrasekeran has been with the team for the past one year
“Just escaped active shooters. Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere,” he was quoted as saying by media reports.
New Zealand Cricket tweeted to confirm the safety of the players and support staff.
“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,” it said.
Senior opener Tamim Iqbal said it was a frightening experience for the team.
“…please keep us in your prayers,” he tweeted.
Arden termed the shooting as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and issued a strong statement condemning the attack.
“This is significant and I can tell you now this is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days. I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. This is not who we are,” she said.
“Certainly it has occurred at a place where people should have been expressing their religious freedom, where they should have been in a safe environment, and they have not been today. There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme acts of unprecedented violence.
“The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home, they should be safe here. The person who has perpetuated this violent act against them, they have no place in New Zealand society,” she added.
The players were initially barred from leaving the bus but, after several minutes, disembarked and made their way through to the Hagley Park ground. After that they went back to their hotel.
According to ‘ESPNCricinfo’, most of the coaching staff was in the team hotel at the time of the incident while head coach Steve Rhodes was at the ground.
“Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan were also back in the hotel and have been contacted, and told to stay back at the hotel,” the report stated.
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