‘Hero’ refugee who ran towards New Zealand terrorist credited with saving lives

Latest: A refugee who ran towards the Christchurch terror attacker is being hailed a hero for preventing more deaths.

When the attacker, alleged to be white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, entered the Linwood mosque in Christchurch, Abdul Aziz, 48, picked up the first thing he could find – a credit card machine – and ran outside, screaming: “Come here!”

His actions led the gunman on a cat-and-mouse chase before scaring him into speeding away in his car.

But Mr Aziz, whose four sons and dozens of others remained in the mosque while he faced off with the gunman, said he thinks it’s what anyone would have done.

The terrorist killed 49 people after attacking two mosques in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.

He is believed to have killed 41 people at the Al Noor mosque before driving about three miles across town and attacking the Linwood mosque, where he killed seven more people. One person died later in a hospital.

Mourners place flowers as they pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch (Vincent Yu/AP)

Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder and a judge said on Saturday that it was reasonable to assume more charges would follow.

Latef Alabi, the Linwood mosque’s acting imam, said the death toll would have been far higher if it wasn’t for Mr Aziz.

Mr Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque at about 1:55 pm and stopped the prayer he was leading and peeked out the window. He saw a man in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun, and assumed it was a police officer. Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities.

“I realised this is something else. This is a killer,” he said.

I've been to a lot of countries and this is one of the beautiful ones

He yelled at the congregation of more than 80 to get down. They hesitated. A shot rang out, a window shattered and a body fell, and people began to realise it was for real.

“Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that’s how we were saved,” Mr Alabi said, referring to Mr Aziz.

“Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone.”

Mr Aziz said as he ran outside screaming, he was hoping to distract the attacker. He said the gunman ran back to his car to get another gun, and Mr Aziz hurled the credit card machine at him.

He said he could hear his two youngest sons, aged 11 and five, urging him to come back inside.

The gunman returned, firing. Mr Aziz said he ran, weaving through cars parked in the driveway, which prevented the gunman from getting a clean shot. Then Mr Aziz spotted a gun the gunman had abandoned and picked it up, pointed it and squeezed the trigger. It was empty.

He said the gunman ran back to the car for a second time, likely to grab yet another weapon.

“He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window,” he said.

The window shattered: “That’s why he got scared.”

He said the gunman was cursing at him, yelling that he was going to kill them all. But he drove away and Mr Aziz said he chased the car down the street to a red light, before it made a U-turn and sped away.

Online videos indicate police officers managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.

Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Mr Aziz said he left as a refugee when he was a boy and lived for more than 25 years in Australia before moving to New Zealand a couple of years ago.

“I’ve been to a lot of countries and this is one of the beautiful ones,” he said. And, he always thought, a peaceful one as well.

Mr Aziz said he did not feel fear or much of anything when facing the gunman. It was like he was on autopilot.

And he believes that God, that Allah, did not think it was his time to die.

New Zealand PM: Shooting suspect wanted to kill more victims before arrest

2:40pm: New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the Christchurch shootings suspect had wanted to kill more victims before he was arrested.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with members of the Muslim community. Picture: EPA/BORIS JANCIC

49 people died in the mosque attacks in Christchurch while dozens remain in hospital.

A 28-year-old Australian man has appeared in court charged with murder.

Two other people also remain in police custody.

New Zealand police say there is no evidence to suggest that more than one person was involved in the shootings.

A survivor of the New Zealand mass shootings has told how he picked up the attacker's empty shotgun, and chased him as he went to rearm himself.

Abdul Aziz has been described as a hero after confronting the gunman.

"He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window," said Mr Aziz.

Greg Robertson from Christchurch Hospital says the scale of the attack was unprecedented.

"It's unusual for surgeons in this part of the world to deal with gunshot wounds," said Mr Robertson.

We generally have had experience while overseas. Clearly we don't face the extreme load that this incident put on our services at the time.

Ms Ardern has promised an overhaul of the country's gun laws, following the deadly mosque shootings in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, Auckland has cancelled its St Patrick's Day as a mark of respect.

Local Christchurch councillor, Deon Swiggs, says help is coming from across the country and a memorial day is also being planned but security concerns may delay it taking place.

"A lot of staff from across New Zealand are coming to Christchurch to support our communities to make sure there is enough counselling that will be available to people," said Cllr Swiggs.

"We will have a memorial day that we can come together as a city that is being worked on as a government at the moment so we haven't got a date because the risk is still too high in the city for potentially something else happening."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has sent this message to Ireland's Muslim community in the aftermath of the shootings.

"To our Muslim community in Ireland, all 70,000 of them, to Muslim communities all around the world, I think the most important thing is that we not be afraid," said Mr Varadkar.

"That we don't allow the terrorists to win by changing our lifestyles or changing the way we look at each other because of what was a terrible act."

People in Dublin are paying their respects to the victims of the attack.

Lord Mayor Nial Ring is encouraging people to sign the book of condolence which was opened in the Pro-Cathedral on Marlborough Street.

He says people have been lining up since early this morning to show solidarity.

"I was in there first thing this morning signing it and even at that stage which was quite early there was a steady stream of people wanting to show their solidarity with the people of Christchurch and of course their abhorrence at the terrorist attack."

Foreigners among those targeted in New Zealand mosque attack

9am: Several of those killed or wounded in the shooting rampage at two New Zealand mosques on Friday were from the Middle East or South Asia, according to initial reports from several governments.

The live-streamed attack killed at least 49 people as they gathered for weekly prayers in Christchurch. Another 48 people suffered gunshot wounds in the attacks.

Bangladesh’s honorary consul in Auckland, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, said that “so far” three Bangladeshis were among those killed and four or five others were wounded, including two left in a critical condition.

“One leg of an injured needed to be amputated while another suffered bullet injuries in his chest,” Mr Rahman Bhuiyan said. He declined to identify the dead or wounded.

A message is displayed at a makeshift memorial outside Christchurch Hospital (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The number of Jordanians killed in the New Zealand mosque shootings has risen to three after a wounded man died of his injuries.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry announced the death on Saturday. The ministry said a Jordanian diplomat is on his way to New Zealand to coordinate with local authorities.

In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s attack on two Christchurch mosques, the Foreign Ministry had announced that two Jordanians were among the 49 people killed, and that eight Jordanians had been wounded.

Christchurch Hospital chief Greg Robertson said on Saturday that seven of the 48 gunshot victims admitted after the shootings had been discharged.

Mr Robertson said a four-year-old girl who had been transferred to an Auckland hospital was in critical condition and 11 patients who remained in Christchurch were also critically wounded.

“We have had patients with injuries to most parts of the body that range from relatively superficial soft tissue injuries to more complex injuries involving the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis, the long bones and the head,” he said.

Many patients will require multiple operations to deal with their complex series of injuries, he added.

A bouquet of flowers is placed near Christchurch Hospital (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

He said a two-year-old boy was in stable condition, as was a 13-year-old boy.

Mohammed Elyan, a Jordanian in his 60s who co-founded one of the mosques in 1993, was among those wounded, as was his son, Atta, who is in his 30s, according to Muath Elyan, Mohammed’s brother, who said he spoke to Mohammed’s wife after the shooting.

He said his brother helped establish the mosque a year after arriving in New Zealand, where he teaches engineering at a university and runs a consultancy. He said his brother last visited Jordan two years ago.

“He used to tell us life was good in New Zealand and its people are good and welcoming. He enjoyed freedom there and never complained about anything,” he added. “I’m sure this bloody crime doesn’t represent the New Zealanders.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said four Pakistanis were wounded, and Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted that five other Pakistani citizens were missing after Friday’s attacks.

Malaysia said two of its citizens were hospitalised, and the Saudi Embassy in Wellington said two Saudis were wounded.

India’s high commissioner to New Zealand, Sanjiv Kohli, tweeted on Saturday that nine Indians were missing and called the attack a “huge crime against humanity”. Indian officials have not said whether the nine were believed to be living in Christchurch.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least three Turkish citizens were wounded in the attacks in New Zealand and that he had spoken to one of them.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand said two Afghans were missing and a third person of Afghan origin was treated and released from the hospital.

Two Indonesians, a father and son, were also among those shot and wounded, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.

Mr Nasir said the father was being treated at an intensive care unit and his son was in another ward at the same hospital. He declined to identify them.

- Press Association

Man charged after 49 killed at mosques in ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’

Update 7am: New Zealand has been trying to come to terms with the deaths of 49 people shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers on Friday.

One man was arrested and charged with murder.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday morning amid strict security 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.

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

It was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.

She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

Tarrant posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

The gunman also live-streamed in graphic detail 17 minutes of his rampage at Al Noor Mosque.

At least 48 people were wounded, some critically. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.

Christchurch Hospital chief Greg Robertson said on Saturday that seven of the 48 gunshot victims admitted after the shootings in had been discharged.

A four-year-old girl who had been transferred to an Auckland hospital was in critical condition and 11 patients who remained in Christchurch were also critically wounded.

“We have had patients with injuries to most parts of the body that range from relatively superficial soft tissue injuries to more complex injuries involving the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis, the long bones and the head,” he said.

A two-year-old boy was in stable condition, as was a 13-year-old boy.

Police stand by makeshift memorial near the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch (Mark Baker/AP)

Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. They gave no details about those taken into custody except to say that none had been on any watch list.

During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not 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 Tarrant’s.

Tarrant’s relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said.

He has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.

In the aftermath, the country’s threat level was raised from low to high, police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand, and the national airline cancelled several flights in and out of Christchurch, a city of nearly 400,000.

World leaders condemned the violence and offered condolences, with US president Donald Trump tweeting, “We stand in solidarity with New Zealand.”

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 homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight gun homicides.

A man places flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, (Mark Baker/AP)

On Saturday, the prime minister said the “primary perpetrator” in the shootings was a licensed gun owner and legally acquired the five guns used.

Ms Ardern said the country’s gun laws will change as a result of the carnage, but she did not specify how.

The prime minister said the attack reflected “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”

Immigrants “have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home,” Ms Ardern said. “They are us.”

At the White House, Mr Trump called the bloodshed “a terrible thing” but rejected any suggestion the white nationalist movement is a rising threat around the world, saying it is “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems”.

At the Al Noor mosque, witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black and wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top enter the house of worship and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running out in terror.

Mr Peneha, who lives next door, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway and fled.

Mr Peneha then went into the mosque to help the victims.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

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

- Press Association

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