CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) - An aircraft engineer, a takeaway store owner, a student pilot; details emerging of some of the 50 people gunned down at two New Zealand mosques paint a picture of dozens of ordinary lives suddenly and savagely ended.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face further charges.
Friday’s attack, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled as terrorism, was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand.
At Hagley College, a school across a park from the Al Noor mosque where more than 40 people were killed, a makeshift support centre was set up on Sunday.
A stream of victims’ friends and relatives entered, one woman carrying sandwiches and falafel.
Muzzammil Pathan arrived to offer his condolences for a friend, Imran Khan, who was killed at a second mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
Khan, a migrant from Hyderabad in India, owned a popular Indian takeaway and had recently opened a butcher shop, he said.
“He was a good person. We wish this did not happen. He came here to New Zealand 18 years ago - he was just 47. He was a self-made man,” Pathan said.
Abdul Fatah, a computer engineer in his 50s, was shot dead at Al Noor mosque said his old friend, and a survivor of the massacre, Mohammed al Jabawe. Fatah was originally from Palestine and migrated to Christchurch from Kuwait about 20 years ago, he said.
Another victim was Sheik Moussa, a Somali preacher in Christchurch in his late 70s.
“He was a good old man. He liked to do marriages - he married me and my wife,” said Sulaman Abdul, who fled Somalia as a refugee in 1993 for New Zealand.
National carrier Air New Zealand said Lilik Abdul Hamid, an aircraft maintenance engineer, was in killed at the Al Noor mosque.
“Lilik has been a valued part of our engineering team in Christchurch for 16 years, but he first got to know the team even earlier when he worked with our aircraft engineers in a previous role overseas,” Air New Zealand Chief Executive Christopher Luxon said in a statement.
“The friendships he made at that time led him to apply for a role in Air New Zealand and make the move to Christchurch. His loss will be deeply felt by the team.”
Authorities are still identifying victims and have not officially named those who died.
The youngest victim on an unofficial list was three-year old Mucaad Ibrahim. A family friend said Mucaad was born in New Zealand to parents from Somalia.
“They were former refugees. It’s completely devastating of course. They were fleeing violence and war. This was supposed to be a safe haven. It brings back trauma,” said Guled Mire, a family friend.
Hafiz Musa Patel was the Imam of Lautoka Mosque in Fiji. He was among several Fijians visiting Christchurch to see friends and relatives when he was killed at Al Noor mosque, his friend Abdul Sahid, who had flown in from Fiji to pay his respects, told Reuters.
One student, who asked not to be identified, said a friend had been killed.
“He was studying to be a pilot and we saw him for morning classes. Then he went to the mosque as usual,” he said.
“I got a call last night from a friend, around midnight, to say he has passed away.”
The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Pakistan’s high commissioner said six citizens had been killed and three were missing.
Khaled Mustafa, a recent refugee from Syria, had also been killed at the Al Noor mosque, Syrian Solidarity New Zealand spokesman Ali Akil told news website Stuff.
Mustafa and his family had “survived atrocities” in their home country and “arrived here in a safe haven only to be killed in the most atrocious way”.
His son, Hamza, who is about 16, was missing, and his son Zaid, who is about 13, is in Christchurch Hospital where he underwent a six-hour operation, Akil said.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Praveen Menon; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Robert Birsel