Christchurch: New Zealanders flocked to memorial sites to lay flowers and mourn the victims of the twin mosque massacres Sunday, as testimony emerged of epic heroism and harrowing suffering in the gun attack that has claimed 50 lives.
Amid the sadness, there have also been tales of heroes such as Alabi Lateef and a fellow worshipper, who followed the 28-year-old Australian gunman to his car and used a discarded rifle to smash the vehicle’s back window.
Alabi said he told worshippers to duck down and then described how he and a “brother” decided to confront the attacker during a lull in the gunfire.
“By the time he got there (outside the mosque) the bullets were finished and the gun was used,” Lateef recounted.
The pair’s actions may have helped saved further casualties, as Tarrant was apprehended by two armed police officers soon after.
Haji Daoud Nabi, a 71-year-old Afghan man, reportedly ran into the line of fire to save fellow worshippers at the Al Noor mosque and died shielding someone else from a bullet.
“He jumped in the firing line to save somebody else’s life and he has passed away,” his son Omar told AFP.
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‘She was busy saving lives’
Husna Ahmad, 44, was killed as she rushed back in to the Al Noor mosque to save her wheelchair-bound husband. She was among at least four women murdered in the attack.
She had already exposed herself to huge danger by helping several women and children escape from the building, shepherding them out as the shooting started.
“She was screaming ‘come this way, hurry up’, and she took many children and ladies towards a safe garden,” husband Farid Ahmad told AFP.
“Then she was coming back for checking about me, because I was in a wheelchair, and as she was approaching the gate she was shot. She was busy saving lives, forgetting about herself.”
Farid said he forgives the gunman, and harbours no hatred toward him.
“The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity.”
As the bodies of some victims were released to their families, a list circulated by relatives showed they ranged in age from three to 77 and included at least four women.
The list also documents the international scale of the tragedy, with those killed hailing from across the Muslim world and including members of two generations of the same family.
The accused gunman, self-confessed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy-filled far-right “manifesto”.
Ardern said on Sunday that her office had received the manifesto some nine minutes before the attack.