Stories of New Zealand mosque attack victims continue to emerge
The family of 16-year-old Hamza Mustafa, who was gunned down Friday, fled the civil war in Syria.
A student places a candle next to flower tributes for the victims after a vigil in Christchurch on March 18, 2019, three days after a shooting incident at two mosques in the city that claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers.Anthony Wallace / AFP - Getty Images
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When Aya Al-Umari thinks of her big brother Hussein Al-Umari, one of those killed at Al Noor mosque, she pictures his arms wide open, ready to wrap her in an embrace. He was a hugger, she says, a kind man, and the quintessential big brother who delighted in teasing his little sister.
She and her brother were born in Abu Dhabi and moved with their parents to New Zealand in 1997. Hussein, 35, worked in the tourism industry, and he loved traveling.
Atta Elayyan, a 33-year-old goalkeeper for a New Zealand futsal team, was also gunned down in the attack.
OFC official Paul Toohey said Elayyan was a selfless man who always had time for friends, family, teammates and young up-and-coming players.
"Atta was everything a team could want — an outstanding performer who was dedicated to his goalkeeping craft — but also a great friend and leader among his teammates at Canterbury United Dragons and the Futsal Whites," Toohey said.
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Daoud Nabi's son Omar told NBC News he rushed to the mosque as soon as he heard reports of the massacre, only to be told that his father had thrown himself in front of another worshipper and been shot.
Omar Nabi tried calling, but his father's phone was not answering. Then in the early hours of Saturday, Nabi got the news he had most feared — his father was dead.
Nabi said it made sense that his father had tried to save someone in danger.
“He’s helped everyone who’s a refugee,” he said, describing how his father went to the airport to greet refugees, and help get them started in their new lives.
"Whether you’re from Palestine, Iraq, Syria — he’s been the first person to hold his hand up," Nabi said.
As the shootings unfolded, Naeem Rashid is seen on video trying to tackle the gunman, according to Rashid's brother, Khurshid Alam.
"He was a brave person, and I've heard from a few people there, there were a few witnesses. They've said he saved a few lives there by trying to stop that guy," Alam told the BBC.
Rashid's son, 21-year-old Talha Naeem, is also among the dead.
The elder Rashid was a teacher in Christchurch and was from Abbottabad, Pakistan. His son was 11 when his family moved to New Zealand. He had a new job and planned to get married before being killed.
The family of 16-year-old Hamza Mustafa fled the civil war in Syria. He spent six of his young years as a refugee in Jordan before the family was accepted into New Zealand in 2018.
An excellent horse rider who aspired to be a veterinarian, Hamza was compassionate and a hard-working student, said Cashmere High School principal Mark Wilson.
"Despite the fact that he hadn't been here for a long time he had already quickly developed many friends," he said.
His younger brother Zaed, also a Cashmere student, remains hospitalized with gunshot wounds to his leg.
Their father, Khalid, also died in the attack on the Al Noor Mosque.
Days after the attack, relatives were still waiting for authorities to release the bodies. Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities hoped to release all the bodies by Wednesday, and Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they could.
The suspect in the shootings, 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in court Saturday.