Bangladesh’s tour of New Zealand has been called off following a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, in which at least 40 people have been killed. The players and other members of the touring party are safe, in lockdown at their hotel; some of them were on their way to one of the mosques for Friday prayers at the time of the attack but escaped to the nearby Hagley Oval.
New Zealand police commissioner Mike Bush said police had made four arrests in connection with the attack, which included multiple improvised explosive devices attached to vehicles.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern called it a terrorist attack. “There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was,” Arden said. “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.”
The attack took place just after 1.30 pm local time. The players and some support staffers were on their way to the Al Noor Mosque, less than a mile from Hagley Oval, when they saw signs of the unfolding carnage. They initially stayed in the bus and made phone calls, including one to this reporter, who was at the ground. Several journalists then came over to where the bus was and accompanied the players to the ground.
Much of the coaching staff were back in the team hotel while the head coach Steve Rhodes was at the ground. Later, the players went back to their hotel.
Team manager Khaled Mashud said the players had had a lucky escape. “We must have been about 50 yards from the mosque. I would say we were really lucky. 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.”
He said arrangements were being made to fly the team back to Bangladesh as soon as possible.
Within a couple of hours the two boards had decided on the fate of the tour. “We are shocked and appalled as I am sure all New Zealanders are,” NZC CEO David White said. “We are offering support to all those within the teams affected by the situation and are continuing to take advice from authorities on the ground.”
The Bangladesh team will take off from Christchurch at midday on Saturday and arrive in Dhaka in the evening.