Officials have not yet released the names of the 49 people who were killed in a terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday (March 15). But heartbroken friends and family of those reported missing are sharing images and stories of the loved ones they lost.
As the BBC reports, the first victim to be identified was Daoud Nabi, 71, who is believed to have thrown himself in front of others to protect them from bullets. Nabi, a retired engineer who had moved to New Zealand in the 1980s, escaping violence in Afghanistan, was a grandfather and vintage-car enthusiast.
One of his sons, Yama Nabi, speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, described arriving at the city’s Al Noor Mosque 10 minutes late on Friday and coming upon the horrific crime scene.
“At the mosque a distraught friend told him once and then twice more, ‘Your father saved my life,’” the paper reports. Nabi assumed that meant his father had escorted the man to safety, but his father wasn’t among the survivors. After watching the harrowing video the gunman had made with a helmet camera, a video that had been circulating on social media, and which police have asked not be shared, Nabi “realised his friend had not been able to tell him that his father had stepped into a bullet,” the Herald reports.
Nabi, who also led a local Afghan association, was known as an advocate for migrants and refugees. He would show up at the airport to greet refugees arriving from places like Syria, and help new arrivals launch their new life, his son Omar Nabi told NBC News. “Whether you’re from Palestine, Iraq, Syria,” he said, “he’s been the first person to hold his hand up.”
Another man, Naeem Rashid, a teacher in Christchurch, is also being celebrated as a hero. Rashid is reportedly seen in the video tackling the gunman in the midst of the chaos, despite being unarmed. Rashid’s son was also among those shot and reportedly has also died.
According to the BBC, Rashid was hospitalized with injuries, though Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since confirmed his death. (Rashid is reported to be originally from Abbottabad, Pakistan.)
Rashid’s photo and descriptions of his bravery are circulating on social media and in other media accounts.
The key suspect behind the massacre was named in court documents on Saturday. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, an Australian citizen and “extremist, right-wing” terrorist, according to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, has so far been charged with one murder. Two other men who were arrested are still being held by police.
At a press conference, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said of the suspects: “These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and, in fact, have no place in the world.”