From a father praying for the well-being of his five-day-old daughter to a husband who saw a shooting begin inside the mosque his wife walked into, at least six Indians were killed when an Australia-born gunman opened fire with assault rifles during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand.
While sources in the government said that two Indian nationals were injured and seven reported missing, including two New Zealand nationals of Indian origin, four families in Gujarat and two families across Telangana and Kerala Saturday prepared for the desolate trip to Christchurch to bring home the bodies of their relatives for the last rites.
Among the 49 victims of the terror attack by Brenton Tarrant, who was produced in a New Zealand court Saturday, was Ancy (23) from Kodungallur in Kerala’s Thrissur district and the wife of Ponnadathu Abdul Nazar.
According to a relative, Salim, Nazar called his family Saturday about the tragedy. “We were told Ancy was injured. But, another relative working in New Zealand went to Christchurch and identified Ancy’s body and met Nazar,” he said. Read in Malayalam
Salim said Nazar and Ancy were at different mosques and that Nazar saw the firing at the mosque in which his wife was offering namaz. He could not go to the spot after the firing due to the mayhem and only hoped his wife was safe. Nazar searched for Ancy among the injured but later realised that she is no more, he said.
Nazar works at a supermarket in Christchurch, while Ancy studied agriculture technology. The couple had moved to New Zealand a year ago after they wed in 2017.
While the family of Mohammad Juned Kara from Navsari in Gujarat was informed of his death Friday, three more men from Gujarat, who were attending the Friday prayers at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch were also killed in the attack. On the day of the attack, Ramiz and his father Arif — both from Panigate in Vadodara — were offering namaz at the Al Noor mosque to pray for Ramiz’s newborn five-day-old daughter, when Tarrant opened fire, injuring both critically.
Arif’s brother Mohsin left for New Zealand Saturday to bring back the bodies of the two men. After seeking help from the government for an urgent visa, Mohsin said his brother and sister-in-law Ruksana were visiting New Zealand to help their Ramiz with the baby. Ramiz’s older brother Rahil lives in Australia and rushed to Christchurch and helped authorities identify the bodies.
A family friend said, “It is a devastating time for us. A new member has arrived in the family and such a tragedy that both men have died in such a manner. Their life has been cut short and the women are inconsolable. The family members here do not know about the deaths yet. They are in no condition to imagine life ahead.”
The victims also include a 65-year-old resident of Juhapura in Ahmedabad, Mehboob Khokhar, who was visiting his son Imran in Christchurch for the first time. He was pronounced dead Saturday after fatal gunshot wounds.
A friend of Imran told The Indian Express, “The family is not in a condition to talk. This attack has come as a shock to everyone. It was a night of anguish as the authorities confirmed his death only later in the evening. He did not respond to the treatment given to him after he sustained grave bullet injuries. This the first time they were visiting New Zealand in the nine years that Imran has been here, first for his education and then as a transport businessman.” The friend said that Imran is making arrangements to bring back the mortal remains of his father back to India.
In Hyderabad, the family of Farhaj Ahsan (31) were informed of his death on Saturday. His father Mohammed Sayeeduddin, who lives in Tolichowki area, said the police informed Farhaj’s wife in New Zealand that he died at hospital. A software engineer, Farhaj was missing from the Al Noor mosque where he went to offer prayers and is survived by his wife and two very young children. His father has applied for a visa to for New Zealand to help his daughter-in-law take care of the children and make arrangements to bring back Farhaj’s body.
Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand Sanjiv Kohli Saturday tweeted, “(Have) been pursuing info on whereabouts of 9 persons from NZ authorities, these included 7 Indian nationals and 2 PIOs. Two Indian nationals receiving treatment. Following up with NZ Govt. status of others. Also (are) in regular touch with their families”.
Sources said that since verification of identity takes time, the High Commission is waiting for official confirmation from authorities in New Zealand.