CHRISTCHURCH • Mr Adeeb Sami's trip to New Zealand was supposed to be joyful - a chance for the Dubai-based father to surprise his twin children in time for their birthday.
Instead, the 52-year-old ended up in surgery to have a bullet removed from his spine after he dove in front of his two sons to protect them from a gunman who stormed the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch last Friday. By the time the rampage was over, the gunman had killed 41 people.
An attack at Linwood Mosque killed seven more, and one victim died at a hospital, leaving the country reeling after its deadliest mass shooting in recent history.
Doctors worked round the clock to treat 39 people, including 11 in critical condition, for gunshot wounds and other injuries sustained in the attacks. The wounded included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
Victims came from across the Muslim world, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. At least one Saudi citizen, four Jordanians and six Pakistanis were among the dead.
Police have not released the names of those killed in the attack, but charging documents listed one of the victims as Salwa Mirwan Mohamad.
"My dad is a real hero," Mr Sami's daughter, Heba, told Gulf News. "He got shot in the back near his spine in an attempt to shield my brothers but he didn't let anything happen to them." She said she lost five family friends, including a 12-year-old boy, in the attack.
Sayyad Milne, 14, died at the Al Noor Mosque which he attended with his mother and friends every Friday, the New Zealand Herald reported. His father John Milne said his death had not been officially confirmed but he had been told the teenager had been seen lying on the floor of the mosque, bleeding. "I've lost my little boy, he's just turned 14," he told the paper, adding that his son had been a keen footballer. "A brave little soldier. It's so hard... to see him just gunned down by someone who didn't care about anyone or anything."
Mr Abdulrahman Hashi, 60, a preacher at Dar Al Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis, said his four-year-old nephew was among those killed. He received a phone call Friday morning from his brother-in-law Adan Ibrahin Dirie, who was in the hospital with gunshot wounds. Mr Dirie had been with his five children when the gunman opened fire. The youngest, Abdullahi, was killed.
The family had fled Somalia in the mid-1990s as refugees and resettled in New Zealand. "You cannot imagine how I feel," Mr Hashi said. "He was the youngest in the family."
In another tragic case, Mucad Ibrahim, aged three, was last seen alive at the Al Noor mosque with his brother and father. His brother Abdi managed to flee the carnage while his father pretended he was dead after he was shot and managed to escape, The Age said. Mucad has not been seen since the shooting. Abdi said his family thought Mucad had most likely died at the mosque.
On Facebook, a user named Alta Marie said her husband Zulfirman Syah and her son were both shot at the Linwood Mosque. "I was recently united with my son, who has a gunshot wound to the leg and backside," she wrote. "He is traumatised, but we are all alive."
Ms Yasmin Ali, a Christchurch resident, told New Zealand's 1 News that she lost a close family friend who she loved like a grandfather and now fears she could be targeted just for wearing her headscarf in public.
"Family friends that we've known for 19 years - dead. People who were there for my engagement - dead," Ms Ali said.