Friday 18 October 2019

'You cannot imagine' - Children aged three, four, and 14 confirmed among the dead in Christchurch atrocity

  • Authorities announce death toll has risen to 50

  • Killer sent 'manifesto' to NZ Prime Minister minutes before shooting

  • Children aged 14, four and three confirmed dead

Three year old Mucad Ibrahim (right) is believed to be the youngest victim; Brenton Tarrant (bottom left) was charged with murder
Three year old Mucad Ibrahim (right) is believed to be the youngest victim; Brenton Tarrant (bottom left) was charged with murder
ALL WERE INNOCENTS: Three-year-old Mucad Ibrahim was killed at the mosque, while his father and brother escaped alive
SLAIN: Haji Daoud Nabi (71), a father-of-five and retired engineer, moved to New Zealand from Afghanistan in 1977 and set up a new life. He is among the dead in the Christchurch shooting
BRAVERY: Left, Naeem Rashid and his son Talha. Naeem was originally from Abbottabad in Pakistan and was a teacher in Christchurch. In the video of the attack at the Al Noor mosque, he at one point attempts to tackle the gunman, but was shot. Widely hailed as a hero, his brother, Khurshid Alam, said he was proud of his actions after seeing the video. "He was a brave person, and I've heard from a few people there, there were few witnesses… they've said he saved a few lives there by trying to stop that guy," said Mr Alam. "It's a still a shock for us, whatever hero he becomes… it's our pride now, but still the loss. It's like cutting your limb off."
A message card is placed at a collection of flowers left at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch (Vincent Thian/AP)
CHARGED: Brenton Tarrant was charged yesterday for murder in relation to last week’s mosque attacks
Aktar, who says her husband is missing after Friday's mosque attacks, reacts outside a community center near Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A message is displayed at a makeshift memorial outside Christchurch Hospital (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, (Vincent Thian/AP)
People prepare to move the flowers after police removed a police line, outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Juliet Williams and Nick Perry in Christchurch

New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighbourhoods and around the country yesterday, with a fierce determination to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left at least 50 people dead.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge.

The judge said "it was reasonable to assume" more such charges would follow.

Tarrant, who posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter in the city of Christchurch, appeared to make a hand sign, similar to an OK sign, that is sometimes associated with white nationalists.

A woman cries near Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A woman cries near Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The massacre during last Friday prayers prompted a heartfelt response from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pronounced it "one of New Zealand's darkest days" and said the shooter, an Australian native, had chosen to strike in New Zealand "because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion".

Her fellow countrymen seemed to want to prove her right by volunteering acts of kindness. Some offered lifts to the shops or volunteered to walk with their Muslim neighbours if they felt unsafe.

In online forums, people discussed Muslim food restrictions as they prepared to drop off meals for those affected.

"Love always wins over hate. Lots of love for our Muslim brothers," read a handwritten card on a wall of flowers in a historic part of the city that stretched a full block.

Friends of a missing man grieve outside a refuge center in Christchurch, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The live-streamed attack by an immigrant-hating white nationalist killed dozens of people as they gathered for weekly prayers in Christchurch. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
Friends of a missing man grieve outside a refuge center in Christchurch, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The live-streamed attack by an immigrant-hating white nationalist killed dozens of people as they gathered for weekly prayers in Christchurch. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)

Still, Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation's security alert remained at the second-highest level a day after the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.

Ardern said 38 survivors remained in hospital yesterday, with 10 critically wounded. But updates were slow to come, and many families were still waiting to hear whether their loved ones were among the victims. Last night one of the hospitalised victims died, bringing the total dead to 50.

Outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hope of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose mobile phones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.

"We just want to know if they are dead or alive," Mohammed told the officer.

Here are the stories of some of those who were killed in Christchurch.

Mucad Ibrahim, three

Mucad Ibrahim was lost in the melee when the firing started at the Al Noor mosque as his older brother Abdi fled for his life and his father pretended to be dead after being shot.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the family searched in vain for the toddler at Christchurch hospital and later posted a photograph of Mucad, smiling with Abdi with the caption: "Verily we belong to God and to Him we shall return. Will miss you dearly brother".

Abdi described his little brother as "energetic, playful and liked to smile and laugh a lot", confessing he felt nothing but "hatred" for his killer.

Abdullahi Dirie, four

Four of Adan Ibrahin Dirie's five children managed to escape Friday's attacks, but the youngest, Abdullahi, was killed, his uncle, Abdulrahman Hashi, 60, a preacher at Dar Al Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis, told the New Zealand Herald.

Dirie also suffered gunshot wounds and was taken to hospital. The family fled Somalia in the mid-1990s as refugees and resettled in New Zealand.

"You cannot imagine how I feel," Mr Hashi said.

He added: "He was the youngest in the family. This is a problem of extremism. Some people think the Muslims in their country are part of that, but these are innocent people."

Sayyad Milne, 14

Milne was described as a good-natured, kind teenager. The high school student was at the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers when the attack started, his half-sister, Brydie Henry, told the Stuff media outlet.

Sayyad was last seen "lying on the floor of the bloody mosque, bleeding from his lower body," she said her father told her.

Sayyad's mother, Noraini, was also in the mosque and managed to escape, Ms Henry said. The teenager has two other siblings, 15-year-old twins Shuayb and Cahaya.

"They're all at home just waiting. They're just waiting and they don't know what to do," Henry told the news site.

Husne Ara Parvin, 42

Ms Parvin died being struck by bullets while trying to shield her wheelchair-bound husband, Farid Uddin Ahmed, her nephew Mahfuz Chowdhury told The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper.

Mr Chowdhury said Uddin had been ill for years and Ms Parvin took him to the mosque every other Friday. She had taken him to the mosque for men while she went to the one for women. Mr Chowdhury said relatives in New Zealand told him when the shootings began, Ms Parvin rushed to her husband's mosque to protect him. He survived.

The Bangladeshi couple had moved to New Zealand sometime after 1994, Mr Chowdhury said.

Naeem Rashid, 50, and Talha Rashid, 21

As the shootings unfolded, Naeem Rashid is seen on video trying to tackle the gunman, according to his brother, Khurshid Alam.

Mr Alam told the BBC: "He was a brave person, and I've heard from a few people there, there were few witnesses . they've said he saved a few lives there by trying to stop that guy."

Mr Rashid's son, Talha Rashid, is also among the dead. Pakistan's Ministry of Public Affairs confirmed their deaths in a tweet.

The elder Rashid was a teacher in Christchurch and was from Abbottabad, Pakistan. His son was 11 when his family moved to New Zealand. He had a new job and planned to get married.

Mr Rashid's brother, who lives in Pakistan's garrison city of Abbottabad, Dr Mohammad Khursheed, received a call from his sister-in-law telling him of his brother's death.

Dr Khursheed said his brother had already bought his plane ticket to Pakistan for a May family reunion. "He was very brave. He snatched the gun and I think he saved many lives," Dr Khursheed said.

Haji Daoud Nabi, 71

Mr Nabi moved his family to New Zealand in 1979 to escape the Soviet-Afghan war. Days before the shootings, his son, Omar, recalled his father speaking about the importance of unity.

"My father said how important it is to spread love and unity among each other and protect every member of the society we live in," Omar told Al-Jazeera.

He told the news network his father ran an Afghan Association and helped refugees settle in to a new country.

"He used to make them feel at home."

Syed Areeb Ahmed

Mr Ahmed had recently moved from his house in Karachi, Pakistan for a job in New Zealand to help support his family back home. On Saturday, Pakistan's foreign ministry informed his family that he was among those killed during the mosque attack.

One of his uncles, Muhammad Muzaffar Khan, described him as deeply religious, praying five times a day. But education was always his first priority, Khan said.

"He had done Charted Accountancy from Pakistan. He was the only son to his parents. He had only one younger sister ... He had only started his career, but the enemies took his life."

Family members, relatives, and friends have gathered at Mr Ahmed's house to express their condolences. His body is expected to arrive there in coming days.

Mohammad Imran Khan

A handwritten cardboard sign outside Mohammad Imran Khan's restaurant, the Indian Grill in Christchurch, on Sunday said simply CLOSED. A handful of pink flowers laid nearby.

The owner of the convenience store next door, JB's Discounter, Jaiman Patel, 31, said he helped the staff with the keys after the terrorist attack that claimed Mr Khan's life.

"He's a really good guy. I tried to help him out with the set-up and everything," Mr Patel said. "We also put the key out for them when the terrorists come, and sorted it out for him."

Mr Khan had a son who was 10 or 11, Mr Patel said.

The two were business neighbours who helped each other out when needed, he said.

"We are helping each other. It's so sad."

Hungry for any news, families and friends of the victims gathered at the city's Hagley College, near the hospital.

They included Asif Shaikh (44), who said he was among more than 100 people at the Al Noor mosque when the attacker came in. He said he survived by playing dead, but was desperate to know what happened to his friends who were there with him.

"It's been 36 hours, I haven't heard anything about them," he said.

Nearby, Akhtar Khokhur leaned on the shoulders of her friend and cried as she held up her mobile phone with an image of her husband.

"I still don't know where he is," she said.

Khokhur (58) and husband Mehaboobbhai Khokhur (65) had travelled from India to spend time with their son Imran, their first visit in the eight years since he moved to New Zealand. The couple was due to fly out tomorrow.

Imran had dropped off his father, an electrical engineer, at the Al Noor mosque and was looking for a parking space when the shooting began. They have not heard from him since.

The gunman had posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as an Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

He livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at the Al Noor mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets, killing at least 41 people.

More people were killed in an attack on a second mosque a short time later.

Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the gunman's video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.

The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about five kilometres away.

The video showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly.

He also had more assault weapons in his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.

Two other armed suspects were taken into custody last Friday while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand.

Tarrant's relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in northern New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic offences on his record.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed Tarrant was involved in both shootings but stopped short of saying he was the sole gunman.

During yesterday's morning hearing, a man who was not present in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to the mosque attacks.

"We appear to primarily be dealing with one primary perpetrator, but we want to make sure that we don't take anything for granted in ensuring New Zealanders' safety," Prime Minister Ardern said.

New Zealand, with a population of five million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun murder rates in the world.

In 2015, it had just eight.

Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally.

"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern said. She did not offer details, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighbouring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.

Before last Friday, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbour.

© Associated Press

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