Worshipper armed only with credit card machine confronted gunman

Mr Abdul Aziz, who was born in Afghanistan, charged at the shooter outside the Linwood Mosque and hurled a credit card machine at him, before following him into the mosque and confronting him again.
Mr Abdul Aziz, who was born in Afghanistan, charged at the shooter outside the Linwood Mosque and hurled a credit card machine at him, before following him into the mosque and confronting him again.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHRISTCHURCH • As New Zealanders struggled to cope with the deadly mayhem in Christchurch, stories of heroism have emerged from the tragedy, including a worshipper who chased away the gunman armed only with a credit card machine.

The police and eyewitnesses say that a second attack by the gunman was partly thwarted by Mr Abdul Aziz, 48, who was born in Afghanistan.

Mr Aziz said he charged at the shooter outside the Linwood Mosque when someone shouted that a gunman had opened fire.

The gunman had already killed dozens at the Al Noor Mosque nearby, and on the streets.

"He had on army clothes. I wasn't sure if he was the good guy or the bad guy. When he swore at me, I knew that he was not the good guy," Mr Aziz said in an interview.

When he realised that the mosque was being attacked, he ran towards the gunman, picking up a credit card machine as a makeshift weapon.

The shooter ran back to his car and got another gun. Mr Aziz said he threw the credit card machine at the gunman, ducking between the cars as the shooter opened fire.

 
 

He then picked up a gun dropped by the shooter and pulled the trigger, but it was empty: "I was screaming at the guy, come over here, come over here - I just wanted to put his focus on me."

Mr Aziz said the gunman went inside the mosque, and he followed, eventually confronting the shooter again. "When he saw me with the shotgun in my hands, he dropped the gun and ran away towards his car. I chased him," he said.

"He sat in his car and with the shotgun in my hands, I threw it through his window like an arrow. He just swore at me and took off."

Mr Aziz said four of his children were with him at the mosque when the attack occurred.

Nearly 100 Muslim worshippers who had taken cover in the mosque as the rampage unfolded were left unharmed.

"When I came back in the mosque, I could see that everybody was very frightened and trying to (take) cover," Mr Aziz said.

"I told them, 'Brother, you are safe now, get up, he is gone. He has just run away.' And then after that, everybody started crying."

The attack is the worst peacetime mass killing in New Zealand.

Footage of the attack on one of the mosques was broadcast live on Facebook. The shooter was arrested within 36 minutes after the attack started, and charged with murder on Saturday.

Mr Aziz is from Kabul, but left war-torn Afghanistan several years ago. He has been in Christchurch for 2½ years and owns a furniture shop.

More stories of heroes came to light as investigators pieced together the incident.

 
 
 

Mr Naeem Rashid, 50, was seen lunging at the gunman in the live-streamed video from the Al Noor Mosque.

Mr Naeem, from Abbottabad, Pakistan, and a New Zealand resident for nine years, was in the mosque with his 21-year-old son. Both were killed in the attack.

He was shot protecting others, his sister-in-law, Ms Naema Khan, told the news portal stuff.co.nz. Family members had been calling from all over the world to say "he will be our hero", she said.

Police say the gunman was chased down by two police officers who blocked his car and captured him. He had two homemade bombs in the car.

"Those two police officers acted with absolute courage," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at a news conference yesterday.

"They have prevented further deaths and risked their own lives to do so," he added.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2019, with the headline 'Worshipper armed only with credit card machine confronted gunman'. Print Edition | Subscribe