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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Syrian refugee family among Christchurch victims who fled war

Khaled Mustafa and his teenage son are among the victims of the attack on two mosques on Friday

A young girl places a note among flowers left in tribute to victims in Christchurch, on March 17, 2019. AFP
A young girl places a note among flowers left in tribute to victims in Christchurch, on March 17, 2019. AFP

A Syrian family who fled war in their country thought they had found safety in New Zealand before getting caught in the terrorist attack at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on Friday.

Khaled Mustafa and his son Hamza, 15, were shot by a gunman who opened fire on Muslim worshippers in two mosques, killing 50 people and injuring another 50. Two people remain in critical conditions.

According to reports by the New Zealand Herald and Facebook posts by the Syrian Solidarity New Zealand, the two have been confirmed dead.

A younger son Zaid, 13, is recovering from a six-hour operation on his wounds at Christchurch Hospital. He does not yet know that his father and brother were killed in the attack, reported the local newspaper.

A spokesman for the family, Ali Akil, said Mr Mustafa's wife and daughter, who were not at the mosque on Friday, were in "total shock, devastated and in horror".

"They survived atrocities and arrived here in a safe haven, only to be killed in the most atrocious way,” he said.

"They were just looking for a safe place. Unfortunately, we can't claim that New Zealand is a safe place anymore," said Mr Akil.

Mr Mustafa had arrived in New Zealand with his wife and three children in 2018.

Another man who had sought refuge from war in New Zealand more than 40 years ago was reported to be among the victims. Daoud Nabi fled Afghanistan with his two sons and arrived in Christchurch in 1977.

Authorities have not yet released details and information on the victims, but his son, Yama Nabi, confirmed his death.

Abdul Aziz, 48, has been hailed as a hero for potentially having saved lives by confronting the gunman. Mr Aziz, whose four sons were also in the mosque at the time of the attack, is said to have picked up the first object he could find, a credit card machine, before running outside screaming at the gunman, “Come here,” Associated Press reported.

Originally from Kabul, Mr Aziz left Afghanistan as a refugee when he was a boy. He grabbed one of the empty weapons discarded by the attacker and smashed it into one of the windows of the car where the gunman was fetching another weapon.

The brother of a Pakistani victim told the BBC he was proud of his brother, who was killed alongside his son and had also tried to tackle the gunman. "I wish I could die like him," Khursheed Alam said.

Other victims include Sayyad Milne, 14, who wanted to be a footballer when he grew up, and Hosne Ara, 42, killed while looking for her disabled husband.

The attacker, identified as Brenton Tarrant, opened fire on two mosques on Friday afternoon.

He has been named as responsible for both the shootings. He appeared before a judge at Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning, handcuffed and wearing a white prison robe.

Updated: March 17, 2019 09:30 AM

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