Fifty people were killed and at least 40 others sustained serious injuries when a gunman — identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant — opened fire during afternoon prayers at two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch on March 15. While eyewitnesses have spoken about the blood and gore at the mosques and how terrifying the scene was, an Afghan refugee has been hailed as a hero for his presence of mind and courage.
Instead of hiding and trying to save his life when the gunman opened fire at the Linwood Masjid Mosque, Abdul Aziz is known to have picked up the first thing he could find — a card swiping machine — and chased after Tarrant screaming "Come here." The 48-year-old refused to let go of the shooter, scaring him, after which the accused sped away in his car, reported the Associated Press.
Even though he has been appreciated for his pluck and for taking on the gunman, Aziz believes that he did not do anything extraordinary and that any one in such a situation would do the same.
How Aziz tackled the gunman
Speaking to the AP, Aziz, an Afghan who arrived in Australia as a child refugee and moved to Christchurch after about 30 years, said that he intended to distract Tarrant by screaming at him and running after him. The gunman then ran back to his car to get another gun and Aziz threw the card machine at him.
Tarrant then returned to fire, but he couldn't get a direct shot at Aziz as he weaved through the cars parked in the area. Aziz too found a gun that Tarrant's had abandoned, but when he picked it up and pulled the trigger, he realised it was empty. Tarrant then ran back to his car, probably to get another gun, and in the meantime Aziz threw the empty gun at the gunman's car shattering the windshield.
"He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window," Aziz said. The windshield shattered: "That's why he got scared." While Tarrant kept yelling that he would kill everyone present, he sped away in his car.
Latef Alabi, the Linwood mosque's acting Imam, believes that the death toll would have been much higher if it wasn't for Aziz.
Speaking of the terror attack, Alabi said that he heard a voice outside the mosque and decided to stop the prayer and peek outside the window. He assumed it was a police officer when he saw a man in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun. However, he heard the man yell profanities and saw two bodies soon after.
"I realised this is something else. This is a killer," he told the AP, adding that he asked the worshippers to get down. While many hesitated, they believed Alabi when they heard gunshots and saw a body fall. "Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that's how we were saved," Alabi said, speaking of Aziz. "Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone."
Tarrant killed about eight people at the Linwood mosque after pumping bullets into 42 others at the Al Noor mosque at Deans Avenue. The 28-year-old, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on March 16.
Tarrant did not seek a name suppression during his court appearance and is said to have shown no signs of remorse. Instead, the accused smirked at media persons present and swayed while the charges were read out.The Dunedin resident, flanked by two policemen, appeared in white prison clothes, shackled and barefeet, and remained silent throughout.
He has been sent to custody without plea until April 5, when he will be produced before the high court for a hearing, reported NZ Herald.