Christchurch, New Zealand – When the gunman approached the mosque and killed the people on his way, Abdul Aziz did not hide. Instead, he picked up the first thing he could find-a credit card machine-and ran outside shouting, "Come here!"
Aziz, 48, is hailed as a hero for preventing further deaths during Friday prayer at the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, after leading the gunman in a cat-and-mouse chase before turning him into prison to drive away his car.
But Aziz, whose four sons and dozens of others stayed in the mosque while facing the gunman, said he believed it was what everyone would have done.
The gunman killed 49 people after he had attacked two mosques in the deadly mass shooting
Latef Alabi, the incumbent Imam of the Linwood Mosque, said the death toll at the Linwood Mosque would have been far higher if Aziz had not been. Alabi said he heard a vote outside the mosque at 1:55 pm. and stopped the prayer he was leading and glanced out the window. He saw a man in black military gear and a helmet with a big gun, assuming it was a policeman. Then he saw two corpses and heard the shooter screaming obscenities.
"I realized that this is different, this is a murderer," he said.
He called the over 80-year-old community to come down. They hesitated. A shot was heard, a window shattered and a body fell, and people realized it was real.
"Then this brother came over, he went after him, and he succeeded in overpowering him, and so we were saved," said Alabi, referring to Aziz. "Otherwise we would probably have all gone if he had come to the mosque."
Aziz said as he ran screaming outside, he hoped to distract the attacker. He said the shooter ran back to his car for another weapon, and Aziz threw the credit card machine at him. He said he could hear his two youngest sons, ages 11 and 5, urging him to come back in.
The shooter came back shooting. Aziz said he had run and driven through the cars parked in the driveway, which kept the shooter from getting a clean shot. Then Aziz spotted a gun the shooter had left, picked it up, pointed it, and squeezed the trigger. It was empty.
He said that the gunman ran back to the car a second time, probably grabbing a gun. "He gets into his car and I've just taken the gun and thrown it like an arrow against his window and blown his window," he said.
The windshield broke: "That's why he got scared."
He said the shooter swore at him and shouted that he would kill them all. But he drove off and Aziz said he had driven the car down to a red light before turning and driving away. Online videos show that police officers have managed to force the car off the road and get the suspect out shortly afterwards.
Aziz, from Kabul, Afghanistan, said he was a refugee boy and lived in Australia for more than 25 years before moving to New Zealand a few years ago.
"I've been to many countries and that's one of the nicest," he said. And, he always thought, peaceful too.
Aziz said he was not afraid of the shooter. It was as if he was on an autopilot. And he believes that God, that Allah did not believe that it was time to die.
The White SupremacistOn Saturday, it was reasonable to assume that further charges would follow. With his hands in handcuffs when he appeared in court, the Australian citizen flashed an allegedly white nationalist gesture, reported Ben Tracy of CBS News.
At the court, Omar Nabi lamented the loss of his father Daoud, who died in the shootout in the Al Noor Mosque. "Entering a prayer place to shoot someone is cowardly, it's cowardice," he said.
More than 200 miles south of Christchurch, the authorities have searched a house that is believed to be tarrants. The area was evacuated as a precaution, and the Australian police said Tarrants family should hold there investigators.