A Christchurch man who tried to stop the gunman who opened fire in a mosque packed with worshippers is being remembered as a hero.
Naeem Rashid, 50, originally from the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, was in the Deans Ave mosque with his 21-year-old son, Talha Naeem, for Friday prayers.
His sister-in-law, Naema Khan, said video of the shooting showed Rashid approach and try to stop the gunman, who indiscriminately opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.
“When [Rashid] attacked him, he shot him,” Khan said.
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“Our Imam, I think he saw him, he said his face was towards the sky, and he didn’t know whether he was dead or not.”
So far, 49 people have died in the attacks, including 41 in the Deans Ave mosque.
Khan said the family had not had official confirmation Rashid was dead, but they feared the worst. His name was not on the list of injured at Christchurch Hospital, she said. Her nephew was also among the missing.
“We still don’t know anything about my nephew, but they said he was trying to help somebody else to get out from the door and he got shot.”
Khan said Rashid worked in banking in Pakistan. He moved to New Zealand several years ago and settled in Christchurch, where he worked as a teacher, she said. Rashid recently worked for the Kiwi Institute of Training and Education.
Rashid was shot protecting others, Khan said. Family members had been calling from all over the world to say “he will be our hero”.
“My son he text the video to me and he called my sister and said … ‘we’ll be remembering our uncle as a hero’.”
Khan said her brother-in-law was a kind, humble man. “He was a very nice person … he was trying to save people’s lives.”
The alleged gunman, Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant, appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday on a murder charge.
Khan rejected the attempt to terrorise the Muslim community.
“We say that we always love New Zealand, that it’s a a very peaceful country. No wonder people from all over the world are shocked to hear this news,” she said.
HEROIC WORSHIPPER TACKLED GUNMAN
A chef who was caught up in the Linwood Ave mosque attack has described how a heroic fellow worshipper saved people by tackling the gunman while others took cover.
Khaja Mohiuddin was in the mosque’s main room getting ready for Friday prayers when the terrorist attacker burst in and opened fire.
While Mohiuddin managed to escape to hide in a side room, his friend was among seven people killed after being shot in the head, he said.
Two other friends are critically injured, one with a collarbone “ripped off” and the other shot in the shoulder.
Mohiuddin refused to name the friend who was killed as his death has not been confirmed and the family not yet told, but said he usually attended the Masjid al Noor mosque on Deans Ave, where 41 people were killed.
“We thought we would die, but luckily we escaped. I lost my friend, but they haven’t confirmed it, but I have seen he got shot in his head.”
Mohiuddin said he had barely slept since the attack.
“I was inside the mosque, we stood for our main prayer and then we heard the gunshots. Everyone was fleeing because someone said, ‘get down’, so everyone was trying to hide.”
Mohiuddin managed to get into a side room, where he hid with 15 or 20 other people as “many gunshots” echoed out.
But as they took cover one of the worshippers tackled the gunman and stopped him firing.
“The guy was going from us, he was there with us and said ‘we have to do something”, so he ran and just pulled the gun down,” Mohiuddin said.
“We did not seeing anything but heard a sound like something falling down, after that there was no shooting.”
Mohiuddin said when they finally emerged he saw blood everywhere, a scene so horrific he tries not to think of it.
Originally from India, the 30-year-old came to New Zealand a decade ago and now lives in Edgeware.
But the events of the last 24 hours have changed his view of the country.
“It was very peaceful [before], because we never had even a cop with a gun. Today it is different.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to change New Zealand’s gun laws in the wake of the massacre, but for Mohiuddin it is too late.
“That doesn’t return our loved ones. I know I have lost someone about whom I care, and my two other friends, I do not know for how many months they will be on a bed.
“It will not return their time nor my mate’s life back. We were together before, every day.”
Asked how the Muslim community is pulling together, he said: “Everyone is in shock because we never ever thought that this is going to happen.”
‘THIS IS NOT NEW ZEALAND’
Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed said as the gunman started firing into the worshippers at the Linwood mosque, a man grabbed him from behind and stopped him.
“Someone came and pulled him from the back and overpowered him.”
The guns fell to the floor and the shooter “left the guns and ran away”, Ahmed said.
“He tried to pick up the guns and shoot him while he ran away but he couldn’t operate it.”
Ahmed held back tears as he struggled to describe the gruesome scenes of the shooting.
“When you see the people’s heads blown out, you’re walking in a puddle of blood and holding the people who are bleeding – this is not New Zealand.”
But he said it did not make him feel unsafe as a Muslim living in New Zealand.
“I am proud that this is one of the safest places on earth, so inclusive and understanding. We’ve had immense support from everyone around us.
“This is just a blip, that’s my opinion. This was a one in a billion probability.”
‘I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE’
Auckland man Sheik Ashad Ali, 67, was at the Linwood mosque while visiting his son, 43-year-old Azam Ali, who was wearing a moon boot after a foot operation.
The pair sat on chairs at the back of the mosque, with the father closest to the mosque’s front door on his right.
Sheik Ali says he first heard a shot come through a window on the right side of the building.
The shot hit a man seated closer to the front of the mosque in the side of the head, he said.
He then saw the shooter in the doorway.
“When I see that guy I couldn’t do anything. I just slip. I was wearing Muslim clothing, I slip.”
Ali claimed a man in the mosque ran out a back door, around the outside of the building, and tackled the gunman at the front door.
The mosque’s Imam, who was visiting from Fiji, was sitting in front of Ali. Ali said he had been shot in the neck.
He lay on the ground in his long, grey robe, covered in blood, until the shooting stopped.
“The people were yelling and I thought, ‘I don’t know, where has my son gone’.”
Police escorted Sheik Ali to a dairy across the road to wait. It was three hours before he and his son were reunited at a police checkpoint.
Ali said he was right in the line of fire, but managed to hit the ground before bullets came his way.
“I thought I would die but by the grace of God I am safe.”
His wife, Jamal Ali, had her flight to Christchurch delayed as a result of the shootings. He and Azam are still waiting to get their belongings out of the mosque – police have told them it would not be on Saturday.
He said he never expected an attack like this in New Zealand and that every country needed to ban guns to be safe.