Shihadeh Nasasrah, 63, who was wounded in the Christchurch mosque shooting, said he spent terrifying minutes lying underneath two dying men as the gunman kept firing.
The assailant "would go out and bring more ammunition and resume shooting," said Nasasrah, speaking by phone from a Christchurch hospital where he was recovering from two shots to the leg.
"Every time he stopped, I thought he was gone. But he returned over and over again. I was afraid to leave because I didn't know the safest way out. I died several times, not one time."
Nasasrah had attended Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque with his friend, Abdel Fattah Qasim, 60, who was killed in the shooting. Both were originally from the West Bank — Nasasrah from the town of Beit Furik and Qasim from the town of Arabeh.
Nasasrah said about 200 to 300 worshippers were in the mosque for Friday prayers, and that he and his friend were sitting in the front, near the imam, or prayer leader. The imam was delivering the sermon when the gunman burst into the mosque, he said.
"Panic spread all over the place," Nasasrah said. "Some started saying Allahu Akbar (God is great). We scrambled to leave toward a second door that leads to a hall and then to the street, but the bullets brought us down."
"Two people came on top of me, and he (the gunman) approached us and opened fire. Both were killed and I felt them dying," Nasasrah said. "I felt their blood. I myself was shot and I thought 'I'm dying'."
He said he uttered the words that devout Muslims speak before their death — "there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger."
Nasasrah, a car dealer, said most of the worshippers were from Asia, including Indonesia, India, Singapore and Malaysia, and that Arabs made up a smaller part of the congregation.The attack left him and other Muslims in the area worried and puzzled.
"I never heard a racist word in this country," he said. "I don't know what happened and why. I will not leave this country. Our lives are well established here, our homes, works, family is here and we will not leave."
As a young man, Nasasrah studied English in the Syrian capital of Damascus, and then worked as a translator at the New Zealand embassy in Saudi Arabia for 14 years. The father of three moved to New Zealand in 1990. His three children graduated from universities in New Zealand and have established their lives in the country.
Stories from the wounded
Jordanian man says his 4-year-old niece is fighting for her life after being wounded. Sabri Daraghmeh said by phone from Jordan on Saturday that the girl, Elin, remains "in the danger phase" and that her father, Waseem — Sabri's brother — is in stable condition.
Daraghmeh says the 33-year-old Waseem moved to New Zealand five years ago and that he described it as the "safest place one could ever live in."
The Daraghmehs are of Palestinian origin, but have Jordanian citizenship, like several others listed as Jordanian nationals among those killed and wounded in the mosque attacks.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that at least four Palestinians were among those killed, but acknowledged they could have been counted by Jordan or other countries.
Mohammed Elyan, a Jordanian in his 60s who co-founded one of the mosques in 1993, was among those wounded, as was his son, Atta, who is in his 30s. That's according to Muath Elyan, Mohammed's brother, who said he spoke to Mohammed's wife after the shooting.
Muath said his brother helped establish the mosque a year after arriving in New Zealand, where he teaches engineering at a university and runs a consultancy. He said his brother last visited Jordan two years ago.
"He used to tell us life was good in New Zealand and its people are good and welcoming. He enjoyed freedom there and never complained about anything," Muath told The Associated Press.
"I'm sure this bloody crime doesn't represent the New Zealanders."
MUHAMMAD AMIN NASIR, 67
Nasir and his son were just 200 meters from the Al Noor mosque on Friday when everything went wrong. They had no idea that a white supremacist had just slaughtered at least 41 people inside the mosque. A car that had been driving by suddenly stopped, and a man leaned out the window pointing a gun at them.
They ran as the bullets began to fly. But at 67, Nasir could not keep up with his 35-year-old son. He fell behind by two or three fateful steps.
The gunman drove away. A pool of blood poured from Nasir's body.
Nasir, who lived in Pakistan, had been regularly visiting his son in New Zealand.
He was on the third week of his visit when he was shot. He remains in an induced coma with critical injuries, though his condition has stabilized.
ADEEB SAMI, 52
As the rampage inside the mosque began, Sami was shot in the back as he dove to protect his two sons, Abdullah, 29, and Ali, 23, the Gulf News reported.
"My dad is a real hero. He got shot in the back near his spine in an attempt to shield my brothers but he didn't let anything happen to them," Adeeb's daughter, Heba, 30, told the Gulf News.Sami, described by the Gulf News as a Dubai-based New Zealander of Iraqi origin, underwent surgery to remove the bullet and his daughter said he's recovering.