New Zealand terror attack: The heroes

Teacher, taxi driver among brave men who risked their lives

Teacher Naeem Rashid, 50, tried to wrest the gunman's weapon from him in a heroic bid to save others, losing his life in the attempt.
Teacher Naeem Rashid, 50, tried to wrest the gunman's weapon from him in a heroic bid to save others, losing his life in the attempt.

One unnamed hero tried to tackle gunman, while another offered free taxi rides

CHRISTCHURCH • Stories of brave men who risked their lives to try to save fellow worshippers have emerged as survivors recount the horrific scenes at the mosque shootings in Christchurch.

Mr Naeem Rashid, a 50-year-old teacher, tried desperately to wrest the gunman's weapon from him in a heroic bid to save others. But he lost his life in the attempt.

Mr Rashid was in the Al Noor Mosque with his 21-year-old son Talha Naeem for Friday prayers, New Zealand's Stuff news website reported.

The video of the shooting shows Mr Rashid approaching and trying to stop the gunman, who opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.

His sister-in-law Naema Khan told Stuff: "When Rashid attacked him, he shot him."

"Our Imam, I think he saw him, he said his face was towards the sky, and he didn't know whether he was dead or not."

Mr Rashid was badly injured, the BBC reported. He was taken to hospital and Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed his death.

 
 
 

Mr Rashid had worked in a bank when he lived in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. He became a teacher when he moved to New Zealand several years ago. He had recently worked for the Kiwi Institute of Training and Education, Ms Khan said.

He was a kind and humble man, she said. "He was a very nice person... He was trying to save people's lives."

She said family members had been calling from overseas to say: "He will be our hero."

She added: "We still don't know anything about my nephew, but they said he was trying to help somebody else to get out from the door and he got shot."

 
 
 
 

HE POUNCED ON THE GUNMAN

Another survivor told the New Zealand Herald how he had seen a man heroically pounce on the gunman.

Mr Syed Mazharuddin was praying at the Linwood Mosque when he heard the gunshots. Guessing the shooter was very close, he tried to stay out of sight.

"There was screaming around and I tried to take cover," he told the Herald.

"By the time I took cover, this guy came through the main entrance door... and it's a small mosque... there were about 60 to 70 people there.

"Just around the entrance door, there were elderly people sitting there praying and he just started shooting at them."

The shooter was wearing protective gear and firing wildly, Mr Mazharuddin said.

Then he saw a man from inside the mosque try to tackle the gunman.

"The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque... he saw an opportunity and pounced on (him) and took his gun," Mr Mazharuddin said.

"The hero tried to chase and he couldn't find the trigger in the gun... he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he (the gunman) fled."

The hero remains unnamed.

 
 
 

HE OFFERED FREE RIDES

With the city in lockdown, his wife and young children terrified at home, taxi driver Jagmeet Singh left the safety of his home and offered free rides to anyone in need.

"We received a message from the taxi companies to go to the airport and wait there (for safety)," he told Xinhua. As concern mounted, Mr Singh went home. When the lockdown was lifted around 5.30pm local time, Mr Singh decided to head out.

"I live around Shirley Boys' High School... many parents who were there to collect their children were weeping," he said. "It felt risky but people were wanting help and I decided to go."

"There are around only 40 to 50 taxis in town, so we didn't stop until about 10.30pm. I went home around 11.00pm."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 17, 2019, with the headline 'Teacher, taxi driver among brave men who risked their lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe