Abdul Aziz: Saved lives by running at gunman in mosque

by Matthew Theunissen / 18 March, 2019

Abdul Aziz. Photo/RNZ/Matthew Theunissen

A man at the Linwood mosque in Christchurch may have saved dozens of lives on Friday when he hurled an Eftpos machine at the alleged killer then picked up a gun and confronted him.

Abdul Aziz, a furniture shop owner, was at the Linwood Mosque when the attacker opened fire on the people praying inside.

According to latest reports, of the 50 people who lost their lives about 42 people died at the Al Noor Mosque and seven at Linwood Mosque, where Mr Aziz and his four children went for their Friday worship.

At first he thought the gunfire was fireworks but then he saw his "brothers and sisters" starting to fall.

He grabbed the first thing that came to hand - an Eftpos machine - and went outside, ducking in between some cars to avoid the rallies of bullets.

"I saw a man with an army uniform and I say, 'Who the hell are you?' And he started swearing at me," Mr Aziz said.

"I just threw the Eftpos machine [at him] but his car door was open and he managed to get another gun and started shooting at me."

Read more: How you can help after the Christchurch terror attack

Watch PM Jacinda Ardern explain why she won't use the gunman's name:

Mr Aziz's sons were at the door of the mosque, crying at their father to get back indoors.

"When I went to the side of the mosque I saw there was a dead body with a shotgun there.

"I just grabbed that shotgun [but] when I pulled the trigger there was no bullet in it.

"Then I called him. I said, 'Look! I'm in the car park - come this way, come this way!' I just wanted to take his focus away from the mosque [so he would] come into the car park. Even if I got shot that's alright, as long as we could save some other lives."

Read more: Social media must confront its role in terrorism | Inside the Auckland Muslim community 

When the assailant saw that Mr Aziz had a gun he ran back to his car.

"The gun I had in my hand, the shotgun, I just threw it at him like a spear at his window. His window blasted and he got really shocked - he thought I had shot at him or something.

"And then he just swore at me and drove off [while I was] still chasing with the gun."

Shortly afterwards, the killer's car was rammed off the road by local police officers and a man was arrested.

Mr Aziz was also apprehended by police when it was reported he had a gun.

He was released shortly afterwards once it was established he was actually a national hero.

It was put to Mr Aziz that he may have saved dozens of lives.

"Actually, I didn't save them. Allah, God, saved them."

And he was asked what he thought about the perpetrator of New Zealand's worst ever terrorist atrocity.

"He's a coward. He thinks that he doesn't have fear but he does have fear. I could see the fear in his eyes when he was running to his car.

"To come with a gun and start shooting people and killing people and thinking you're a hero. No. You'll never be a hero by killing people, you can be a hero by saving lives."

Mr Aziz hasn't slept since the killings. He said as soon as he closes his eyes he can see the dead bodies around him.

After the interview he went back into Christchurch Hospital to support the injured and their families.

Hundreds more Muslim people could be seen coming and going, many of them having arrived from overseas.

A young woman in a hijab, her eyes red from crying and lack of sleep, brought juice boxes and biscuits for the armed police standing guard outside.

This was first published on Radio NZ.

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