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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

'We stood for prayers and heard gunshots' - witnesses and relatives describe Christchurch horror

At least 49 people have been killed and 48 injured after the shootings at two mosques

Police attempt to clear people from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand. AP.
Police attempt to clear people from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand. AP.

A list of the missing following the terror attack on two Christchurch mosques suggests the death toll will include victims from many nations.

People from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Jordan, Turkey and Afghanistan were among those unaccounted for, according to a tally compiled by New Zealand Red Cross.

At least 49 people were killed and 48 are being treated at a local hospital for gunshot wounds. Still missing are children, teenagers and those in their 60's and 70's.

Jordan’s foreign ministry said two Jordanians were killed and eight injured in the attack, while Bangladesh’s honorary consul in Auckland said three Bangladeshis were killed and at least four injured. One has had a leg amputated and another was shot in the chest.

The Egyptian Ministry of Immigration announced four Egyptians were among the victims, but did not specify if they were among the dead, Egyptian Radio Sawa reported.

At least nine people from India or of Indian origin are missing, the country’s ambassador to New Zealand said, citing multiple sources.

Yami Nabi was outside the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning hoping to see the start of a process that will deliver some justice to his family. Suspect Brenton Tarrant appeared before a judge at the court on Saturday morning.

He was 10 minutes late to Friday prayers and missed the tragedy that unfolded inside the Deans Avenue Mosque, where his 71-year-old father Haij Daoud Nabi was killed. Mr Nabi says his father's body is still inside the mosque.

Yami Nabi speaks to reporters about his father Haij Nami, 60, who was killed in the attack. Steve Addison/The National
Yami Nabi speaks to reporters about his father Haij Nami, 60, who was killed in the attack. Steve Addison/The National

"In a different country he would be hanged," he said of the alleged terrorist.

"Here, he should die in jail. He should never be released."

Mr Nabi said his father had come to New Zealand in 1977 as a refugee from Afghanistan, later becoming a leader in his community. His son followed him to the country in 1983.

"We never expected this to happen in New Zealand," he told The National.

"I always felt welcome here. Dad was a leader in the community."

He said the community wanted more information on the attacks. " We want information now. Not tomorrow."

Khaja Mohiuddin, 30, was at prayers in the Linwood Avenue Mosque when heard gunshots and in the panic hid in a hallway with around 20 others.

He describes an act of bravery by a man who disarmed the attacker after leaving their hiding place.

"We stood for prayers and heard gunshots. Everyone was trying to hide. Someone yelled get down."

He does not know the name of the man who may have saved many more from being killed or injured. He says the man said he had to "do something" before leaving the hallway and "jumping" at the gunman and "pulling the gun down."

"He was hiding and just jumped from where we were."

Mr Mohiuddin teared up as he said that he did not want to "recap what happened" again.

"I have not slept, even for two minutes," since the attack, he said. "I lost my friend. He was shot in the head."

Mr Mohiudden said he could not share the dead man's name as his family had yet to be told.

Two other friends remained in critical care in Christchurch Hospital, he said.

One had his collar bone "ripped off" by a bullet and another had been shot through the shoulder, he said.

Mr Mohiudden worked as a chef in Christchurch and had lived in the city for 10 years. He is originally from Hyderabad India.

Janna Ezat last spoke to her 36-year-old son, Hussein, on Thursday night.

Hussein went to the Masjid Al Noor mosque every Friday, and was supposed to meet his family for lunch afterwards. He did not show up for lunch, and no one had heard from him.

Ms Ezat, who is originally from Iraq but lived in the UAE for 15 years, had been at Christchurch Hospital all afternoon awaiting news of Hussain.

"We went to the mosque but the street is closed so I was looking for his car to be sure that he is there," she told The National, through tears from her home in Christchurch.

"I went to the hospital to see if he is injured and that's where we stayed."

When the list of injured people were posted at the hospital, Hussain's name was not on the list.

"My son is not listed at the hospital – it means he might be dead at the mosque so I am waiting for the police to call me," she said.

Hussein Al Umari was believed to have been at the Al Noor Masjid when the shooting began. His mother, Janna Ezat, is desperately trying to locate him. Courtesy Janna Ezat.
Hussein Al Umari was believed to have been at the Al Noor Masjid when the shooting began. His mother, Janna Ezat, is desperately trying to locate him. Courtesy Janna Ezat.

It was now 4.15am in Christchurch, and Ms Ezat said her daughter and husband were all at the family home, though no one could sleep.

The family had lived in Christchurch for 22 years, after immigrating from the UAE in 1997.

"I'm shivering and I am just waiting until I get a phone call. I'm a miserable case but I'm trying to answer my phone. I need to talk.

"Yesterday we were so happy we brought a brand new car and we had a nice tour. But just today everything collapsed."

Somalian man Abdi Ibrahim had been at the Al Noor mosque with his father and three-year-old brother, Mucad.

He and his father had escaped unhurt, but they had lost sight of Mucad in the ensuing chaos.

"I got out as fast as I can as everyone was rushing to the door, I've never been scared so much in my life," Ibrahim said.

"We all rushed to emergency hospital as that’s where I thought lots of our friends might be."

The Indonesian foreign ministry said a father, currently in intensive care, and son were injured but refused to name them.

The man's wife, Alta Marie, said on Facebook that her husband, Zulfirman Syah, and their son are being treated at Christchurch Hospital.

"My husband was shot in multiple places and has a drain in his lung and has been in surgery," she wrote. "I was recently united with my son, who has a gunshot wound to the leg and backside. He is traumatised."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least three Turkish citizens were injured in the attacks. He described the perpetrators as "impertinent, immoral, vile and scum".

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said four Pakistanis were being treated in hospital but another five were missing. Reports said a Palestinian had been killed with potentially an unknown number injured.

Updated: March 16, 2019 01:20 PM

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