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As Moustafa Ghoneimy lay partially trapped under a body he wondered if the bullet that would kill him would strike his brain or his heart.

"I just waited for the shot to come."

As bullets sprayed all around him and the smell of gunpowder filled the air logic told him the chances of survival were slim, but he also held out some hope.


"There were some bodies over my leg, they were probably dead."

"I just thought I'm dead, I'm going to die. I was just waiting for the shot in my brain or heart. But, my feeling was also that I was going to survive."

That feeling of hope started to dwindle however as he struggled to free himself from the person pinning his leg to the ground.

Ghoneimy, who came to New Zealand nearly three years ago from Egypt in the hope of a better life for his children, said they were about three minutes in prayer when he heard the first "explosion".

"It's a very safe country so we didn't think it would be something nasty."

There were two shots to start with but it still didn't quite register. Once he understood it was shooting he tried to escape.

"We started smelling the gunpowder. I tried running to the door behind me but people were shocked and couldn't open the door. I couldn't pass through."

"A few seconds later I found the door, the glass was smashed. I crouched and tried to get myself out but my leg was stuck."


"The hope to survive was going down but I continued (trying to wriggle free). Even when most of my body was out of the door I still thought I might not make it."

At one stage Ghoneimy recited a phrase which is said when Muslim people believe they are about to die.

"I just waited for a shot to end my life."

Flower tributes near Masjid Al Noor on Deans Ave. Photo / Michael Craig
Flower tributes near Masjid Al Noor on Deans Ave. Photo / Michael Craig

Eventually the father of three managed to free himself completely and he made his way outside over broken glass.

He then called his wife, hoping she wasn't at the mosque with their children. Earlier in the day they had discussed her bringing them to Al Noor so they could all meet for prayer.

About 30 minutes before prayers were to start she called him again. He was busy and didn't have much time to talk. She was running late and had to help collect a friend's children as well as their own so they decided to go to prayer together next week instead - a decision that may well have saved their lives.

During the quick call he begged her not to come to the mosque saying there had been a shooting.

Knowing she was safe Ghoneimy then made it to a house where a man was calling out to him "come here, come here'".

He and three others took shelter in home where he called police. With blood pouring out of his hands from all the glass in his hands he struggled to complete the call.

He then called his wife back again. Then he tried his friends, hoping they had survived.

Two of them didn't.

Nearly a week on and he still finds it hard to believe someone would kill so many people.

"I never saw him. I just focused on my target - getting out."

His hands are healing but his leg is still sore and doctors say it will take several weeks to come right.

Despite losing two good friends and surviving something so horrific Ghoneimy is adamant the gunman hasn't achieved what he set out to do.

"I'm feeling that we have won. Apparently the intention for all this is to separate the Muslim community from the Kiwi community but what happened was the opposite."

Instead of being segregated he said the community had been embraced and Muslims "are blending in more and more" with the rest of the community.

"We are now part of a bigger family."

Ghoneimy says he does think about those who didn't make it out and whether he could have done anything differently or whether he should have gone back inside to help others.

But, for now, he focused on supporting the wife and three children of one of his friends Osama Adnan, helping with support, meals and anything they need.

"We are strong," he said of the Muslim community. "This act didn't succeed in what it was planned for. It was planned to push people away from Islam and push the Muslim community away from the community. These two objectives totally failed."