Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Jordan united by grief and concern for compatriots killed and wounded in New Zealand attack

King Abdullah made a rare tweet condemning the “heinous massacre”, writes Taylor Luck in Amman

Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects to victims outside the hospital in Christchurch. AFP
Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects to victims outside the hospital in Christchurch. AFP

Jordanians in the kingdom and abroad were consumed with worry on Saturday after New Zealand mosques attacks that left three Jordanian nationals dead and at least seven injured.

The Jordanian foreign ministry confirmed early on Saturday that a third Jordanian national had died after succumbing to injuries sustained in a terror attack at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch left at least 49 dead and dozens wounded.

Seven Jordanian’s remain in hospital in conditions ranging from stable to critical. The names of the deceased had not been released or announced by their families as of mid-day on Saturday.

The high number of Jordanians injured and killed in the attack led the Jordanian foreign ministry to send a special envoy to New Zealand on Friday to follow up on the treatment of the injured and aid New Zealand authorities in their investigations.

Jordanian social media, WhatsApp, and living-room conversations were dominated by concerns, well-wishes and stories of Jordanians injured in the attack. Many expressed fear for friends and relatives living in both New Zealand and the West in general.

Capturing the hearts and the focus of prayers of many Jordanians is Wasseim Alsati and his young daughter who were both shot and injured during the attack at Friday prayers in New Zealand.

According to friends, Mr Alsati had relocated to New Zealand five years ago and works as a barber. He slept rough for his first few weeks in the country until he landed a job.

Mr Alsati was hit by five bullets, including four in the back and one in the abdomen, relatives told local media, while his daughter was hit with three bullets.

Both were initially listed in critical condition on Friday, with family members asking for prayers.

Mr Alsati himself posted a video on Facebook from his hospital bed, saying he was weak and exhausted, to “show that I am fully OK.” He asked people to “please pray for me and my daughter. Hopefully, she will be so much better.”

Jordanians shared photos of the young Mr Alsati and his children, and of the father working as a barber, adding statements such as “we just spoke and you were happy there” and “we are praying for you and your beautiful daughters.”

Jordanians also shared praise and prayers for Dr Mohammed Alayan, a Jordanian who was one of the founders of the Al Noor mosque which was targeted by the attacker. Mr Alayan, according to family, often gave Friday sermons and sang the adhan call to prayer. He was praying with his son Atta when they were shot by the gunman.

The elder Alayan had migrated to New Zealand in 1992 and works as a consulting physician. He and his son both hold New Zealand citizenship, relatives told Jordanian Al Ghad daily.

According to family members, the elder Alayan, who was struck in in the shoulder, was listed in stable condition as of early Saturday but the condition of his son is still unknown.

Jordan’s King Abdullah was among the first world leaders to denounce what he called a “heinous massacre.” He directed his government on Friday to provide all support possible to Jordanians affected by the attack.

“The heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime,” the king said in a rare statement on Twitter. “It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion.

“May the victims’ souls rest in peace. Our condolences to the families and our Islamic Ummah,” the king said in his tweet.

Prince Ali Hussein, the King’s younger brother, said he was “saddened and shocked by the horrendous act of terrorism in New Zealand.”

“Such a wonderful and inclusive place ripped apart by senseless and meaningless terrorism,” Prince Ali added in a Tweet.

Children hold placards as they take part in a sit-in near the New Zealand Consulate against shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, in Amman, Jordan, March 15, 2019. The placards read: 'We demand the execution of the murderer', 'God is greater than the unjust'. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Children hold placards as they take part in a sit-in near the New Zealand Consulate in Amman. Reuters

Jordanians were united with their response on social media, with Jordanian Christians posting “peace be upon the martyred prayer-goers” and “this terrorist attack is an attack on all peoples and all religions.”

Many expressed concern for their relatives living and studying in the West, particularly those who wear the hijab or regularly pray at mosques.

“Attackers shoot Muslims praying in a mosque in New Zealand… is anywhere safe for us?” wrote one Jordanian cleric on Facebook.

Updated: March 16, 2019 04:12 PM

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