Written by Megan Specia
One was a dairy farmer. Another aspired to be a pilot. One was an elder known for helping newcomers. Another was a teenager who called his mother when the shooting started. The 50 people slaughtered by a gunman at two Christchurch mosques last week spanned a range of backgrounds. Here is what we know about many of them.
Atta Elayyan, 33, was a technology entrepreneur, a goalkeeper and a new father. He played for New Zealand’s national futsal team, according to the New Zealand Football association, which confirmed his death. Futsal is a version of five-a-side soccer played indoors.
“There are no words to sum up how we are all feeling,” one of his teammates, Josh Margetts, said in a statement. “There is a huge hole in our hearts as we come to terms with the loss of a great person and a good mate. He will be sorely missed.”
Elayyan was born in Kuwait and studied computer science at the University of Canterbury. He was the chief executive and a co-founder of LWA Solutions, a mobile app startup. He was well known in the futsal world and in Christchurch’s tech community.
He and his wife, Farah, have a young daughter, Aya, whose photos appear in abundance on his Facebook page. In one, she is wearing a bib that says: “My dad rocks.”
Three-year-old Mucad Ibrahim is the youngest person confirmed to have been killed in the attacks. He was at Al Noor mosque and became separated from his brother and father when the shooting began.
“He was a Muslim-born Kiwi who was full of energy, love and happiness,” his family said in a statement. “He is remembered in our community as a young boy who emanated nothing but the representation of God’s love, peace and mercy.”
“Will miss you dearly brother,” Mucad’s brother Abdi Ibrahim wrote on Facebook.
Mucad was wearing a white thobe and his favorite white hat Friday, “and so returned to His Lord in a state of pure innocence and spiritual beauty,” the family’s statement said.
The family said they had taken solace from a global outpouring of support. “Knowing that New Zealand and the whole world stands behind our boy reassures us that violence and racism are unwelcome in our world,” they said.
“I’ve lost my little boy; he’s just turned 14,” Sayyad Milne’s father, John Milne, told The New Zealand Herald through tears.
Sayyad was one of two Cashmere High School students killed in the attack, according to the school’s principal, Mark Wilson. The boy was an avid soccer player.
“He proved himself to be not only a truly outstanding goalkeeper, but a great friend and colleague, a real team player with a fabulous attitude and a warm and friendly personality,” St. Albans Shirley Football Club said in a statement on Facebook.
“Sayyad was one of our own, and we will always remember him.”
Lilik Abdul Hamid
Lilik Abdul Hamid, originally from Indonesia, had been an aircraft maintenance engineer with Air New Zealand for 16 years, the company’s chief executive, Christopher Luxon, said in a statement.
“He first got to know the team even earlier when he worked with our aircraft engineers in a previous role overseas,” Luxon said. “The friendships he made at that time led him to apply for a role in Air New Zealand and make the move to Christchurch.”
Hamid is survived by his wife and two children, Luxon said. On Facebook, one of Hamid’s friends called him “a man with a gold heart who always opened his heart and home to everyone.”
Areeb Ahmed, 27, was an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a statement released by the company said. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said he was originally from that country’s largest city, Karachi.
“Areeb was a loved and respected member of our PwC family,” the company wrote on Facebook. “His smile, warmth, dedication, respect and humor will be deeply missed.”
New Zealand Football confirmed the death of Tariq Omar, 24, a soccer player who coached for several of Christchurch United Football Club’s junior teams. Colin Williamson, the club’s academy director, called him “a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching.”
“Our coaches and his players are struggling to understand what has happened, and we are trying to support our club members as best as we can,” Williamson said in a statement released by the club. “But of course our main thoughts and concerns go out to Tariq’s family who are in our hearts and prayers.”
Shahid Suhail, 35, from Pakistan, was an engineer who worked for a resin manufacturer in Christchurch, according to Stuff, a news website. He had a wife and two young daughters. “His daughters were his life,” said his wife, Asma.
Syed Jahandad Ali
Syed Jahandad Ali, 34, originally from Lahore, Pakistan, worked at Intergen, a software company, and had a wife and three children, according to a fundraising page created by the company. In a statement, the company called him “a kind and gentle man.”
“Syed Jahandad Ali has deeply touched the lives of his friends, colleagues and wider technology community through his knowledge and skills. We are devastated to have lost a very loved Intergenite” the statement read.
Haroon Mahmood, 40, had worked in banking in Pakistan before moving to New Zealand, Stuff reported. He taught at a private school for international students and had been a tutor at Lincoln University in Christchurch, according to Radio New Zealand. He had a wife and two children.
Farhaj Ahsan, originally from Hyderabad, India, had lived for 10 years in New Zealand, where he worked as an electrical engineer. He left behind a wife and two children, according to his brother, Kashif Ahsan, who spoke to the BBC.
Maheboob Khokhar, a 65-year-old Indian engineer, was on his first trip to New Zealand, visiting his son, who had moved there from India eight years ago.
His wife, Akhtar Khokhar, said they had been in the country for two months. He was at Al Noor mosque the day before they had planned to leave.
Asif Vora was among five Indian nationals whose deaths were confirmed by the Indian High Commission in New Zealand. Radio New Zealand said that he was 58 and that he and his son had been killed at Al Noor mosque.
Asif Vora’s son, Ramiz Vora, 28, had become a father just days before his death, according to Radio New Zealand.
Ansi Alibava, 25, another of the Indian nationals among the victims, had moved to New Zealand with her husband, Abdul Nazer, in 2018, a year after they had married, he told CNN. She had just completed a master’s degree in agribusiness management.
Nazer was near an emergency door at Al Noor mosque when the shooting began and managed to escape. Outside, he saw Alibava lying facedown and ran to her, but was stopped by a police officer.
“She had so many dreams,” he told CNN.
Ozair Kadir, 25, dreamed of being a commercial pilot like his older brother. Originally from Hyderabad, India, he had moved to New Zealand in recent years and was set to make that a reality.
Messages of grief and support for Kadir’s family poured in on the Facebook page of the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand, where he was in pilot training. Fellow students gathered Monday to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial.
“Ozair’s presence will be sadly missed by all staff and students at the Academy,” the institute said in a statement. “Our love, thoughts and prayers are with his family who are now in New Zealand preparing to take Ozair home.”
Haji Daoud al-Nabi
Haji Daoud al-Nabi, 71, arrived in New Zealand from Afghanistan about 30 years ago and was a central figure in Christchurch’s small Afghan community. He was a leader who welcomed everyone, his son Yama al-Nabi said.
His son was running 10 minutes late for Friday Prayers, along with his 8-year-old daughter, when they came upon a police cordon. The younger al-Nabi’s hands trembled as he held up his mobile phone to show a picture of his father with his daughter in the mosque on a different day.
“I thought I’d make it to the prayers. When I got there, the police were there. I was running, and a guy said there was shooting in the mosque,” Yama al-Nabi said. He knew his father was inside, but news of his death only came hours later.
Salwa Mirwan Mohamad
Salwa Mirwan Mohamad was named in a court document charging the alleged gunman with murder. Further details on her identity are still unclear.
Ali Elmadani, 65, immigrated to New Zealand from the United Arab Emirates with his family in 1998, his family confirmed to the Stuff news site. His daughter, Maha Elmadani, said her father had always told the family to be strong, so that was what she was trying to do.
“He considered New Zealand home and never thought something like this would happen here,” she told Stuff.
Husna Ahmad, 47, led a number of women and children to safety after the shooting at Al Noor mosque began, said Farid Ahmad, her husband. Farid Ahmad, who is in a wheelchair, said she was killed when she returned to the mosque to check on him.
“She was busy with saving lives, forgetting about herself,” said Ahmad, 59.
Ahmad said he had forgiven the gunman and believed good would eventually come from the killing. “This is what Islam taught me,” he said.
“What he did was a wrong thing, but I would tell him that inside him, he has great potential to be a generous person, to be a kind person, to be a person who would save people, save humanity rather than destroying them,” Ahmad said. “I hope and I pray for him that he would be a great savior one day. I don’t have any grudge.”
In the gunman’s self-made video of the killings he had posted to Facebook, a man can be seen trying to tackle him as he began firing in Al Noor mosque. That man was Naeem Rashid, according to witnesses.
His family described him as an intelligent, ambitious and devout father of three. His eldest son, Talha Naeem, was also killed.
Rashid was in his 40s, according to Stuff and Radio New Zealand. His brothers, interviewed in Pakistan, said he had left a senior position at Citibank in the city of Lahore in 2010 to pursue a doctorate in Christchurch and raise his children in a peaceful country. Starting over proved more difficult than he had expected.
“Like everybody who leaves this country, he left Pakistan because of lack of opportunities here,” said Dr. Khurshid Alam, one of Rashid’s brothers. “He went there to do his Ph.D. Because of the financial situation, he couldn’t complete it, so he was teaching part time.”
He became much more devout during his time in New Zealand, according to his brothers. They said he talked about wanting to die a martyr, which he felt was the most honorable way for a Muslim to die.
Talha Naeem, 21, had just graduated from college and entered the workforce. He was the eldest of Naeem Rashid’s three children — the second is 18, the youngest is 5 — and his father was especially proud of him, according to his family.
The family had planned to return to Pakistan in May to help Naeem find a wife.
Amjad Hamid was a cardiologist who had spent the last few years working with rural communities in the mountainous area of Taranaki, on New Zealand’s North Island, though he continued to live in Christchurch with his wife and family. At Hawera Hospital in Taranaki, he often brought colleagues fresh baklava from a Christchurch bakery.
“He was well liked for his kindness, compassion and sense of humor,” the Taranaki District Health Board said in a statement. “He was a hardworking doctor, deeply committed to caring for his patients, and a thoughtful team member who was supportive of all staff.”
His wife, Hanan al-Adem, told Radio New Zealand she still could not believe he was gone.
“He was the perfect man; it’s a big loss,” she said.
Kamel Darwish, 38, arrived early at his brother’s home in Christchurch on the eve of the attack. He had traveled from the countryside, where he worked at a dairy farm, because “he didn’t want to miss Friday prayers,” said his brother, Zuhair Darwish.
New Zealand had been his home for just six months. He had moved from Jordan because his brother had convinced him there was no safer, better place to raise a family. His wife and children were set to arrive in a month.
“He was caring; he was honest; he was a loving person,” his brother said.
Linda Armstrong, 64, was a third-generation New Zealander who grew up in Auckland and converted to Islam in her 50s, her nephew Kyron Gosse said.
“Linda had a huge heart, and what little she had, she was more than happy to share with her family and Muslim community,” Gosse wrote in a tribute to his aunt on Facebook. “She would tell me stories about Ramadan when all the families would come together at the mosque sharing homemade meals and having a feast, laughing and chatting.”
Lateef Alabi, a leader at the Linwood mosque, told The New York Times that Armstrong had been among the victims there.
Her younger brother, Tony Gosse, remembered her as a peaceful woman with a “stubborn ideology of this world.”
“We didn’t always see eye to eye, but she lived a very humble lifestyle and was always unselfishly helping others. She volunteered at refugee centers and was an advocate for women’s rights,” he said. “She always had an open ear and a shoulder to lean on.”
Mohammed Imran Khan
Mohammed Imran Khan, 47, also known as Imran Bhai, was originally from India and was killed at the Linwood mosque, Stuff reported. He owned a restaurant, the Indian Grill, and two other Christchurch businesses. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page the day after the attacks said it would be closed indefinitely.
Hamza Mustafa, 16, called his mother when the shooting began at Al Noor mosque, she told Stuff.
“He said, ‘Mum, there’s someone come into the mosque, and he’s shooting us,’ ” Salwa Mustafa said. “I called, ‘Hamza, Hamza,’ and I can hear his little voice, and after that it was quiet.”
Hamza Mustafa attended Cashmere High School, as did Sayyad Milne, another teenager killed in the attack.
Khaled Mustafa, Hamza Mustafa’s father, was also killed at Al Noor mosque.
Radio New Zealand said that the Mustafas were originally from war-ravaged Syria and that they had moved to New Zealand from Jordan last year. Hamza’s 13-year-old brother Zaed was wounded.
“Our lives have completely changed,” Salwa Mustafa told Stuff.
Junaid Ismail, 36, was a Christchurch native who worked at the family business, a dairy, according to Radio New Zealand. He had a wife and three children. His twin brother, Zahid, survived the shooting.
Abdelfattah Qasem, a 60-year-old Palestinian, worked in Kuwait for much of his life, Stuff reported. He moved to New Zealand with his family in the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War. A relative told Stuff that Qasem was “like an elder for the community,” known for helping newcomers to Christchurch. He had three daughters and was about to become a grandfather.
Originally from Fiji, Ashraf Ali, 61, had lived in Christchurch for 17 years, Stuff reported.
Ashraf Ali Razat
Ashraf Ali Razat, 58, was visiting New Zealand from Fiji when he was killed, according to Radio New Zealand.
Mathullah Safi, 55, killed at Al Noor mosque, came to New Zealand from Afghanistan through India about nine years ago, Stuff reported. He was married with seven children.
Hussein Al-Umari, 35, killed at Al Noor mosque, worked in the travel industry but had recently lost his job, his parents told Stuff. The family moved to New Zealand from the United Arab Emirates 22 years ago, according to the news site.
Musa Vali Suleman Patel
Musa Vali Suleman Patel, 60, an imam in Fiji for about 25 years, had traveled to Australia and then New Zealand to spend time with children and friends, the Fiji Muslim League said in a statement. He “served selflessly as an imam, teacher, mentor, and was much sought after as a powerful orator and speaker,” the organization said in a statement. He is survived by his wife and five children.
Ashraf al-Masri had two young children and worked in a shop, according to Stuff. His age was not reported.
Hussein Moustafa, 70, was originally from Egypt, according to Stuff. “He loved the mosque, he loved tidying it, he loved nourishing it, and he was always a welcoming face there,” his daughter-in-law, Nada Tawfeek, told the news site.
Mounir Soliman, 68, had been a design engineer and quality manager at Scotts Engineering in Christchurch since 1997, according to Stuff. He was a “lovely man,” said a spokeswoman for the company, Glenda Hillstead. He was married and had no children.
Zeeshan Raza, 38, a mechanical engineer, moved to New Zealand last year from Karachi, Pakistan, Stuff reported. He and his parents were killed at the Linwood mosque.
Raza’s father, Ghulam Hussain, was in his 60s, Stuff reported. He and his wife, Karam Bibi, came to New Zealand last month to visit their son.
Bibi was also in her 60s, according to Stuff. She and Hussain are survived by a daughter.
Abdukadir Elmi, 78, came to New Zealand with his family about 10 years ago, Stuff reported. In a Facebook post, his son, Said Abdukadir, said he was “a giant among his community,” generally known as Sheikh Abdukadir. “Kids would run to grab his chair when they hear the noise of his cane hitting against ground upon his entrance,” he wrote. He is survived by five sons, four daughters and his wife of nearly 50 years, according to Stuff.
Mohsin Al Harbi
Mohsin Al Harbi had lived for 25 years in New Zealand, where he worked in water desalination. After the shooting, his wife, Manal, was hospitalized with a heart attack while searching for him, Stuff reported.
Osama Adnan Youssef Kwaik
Osama Adnan Youssef Kwaik, 37, was born in Gaza and raised in Egypt, according to Stuff. A civil engineer, he moved to Christchurch in 2017 and was in the process of applying for New Zealand citizenship. He had a wife and three children, one of whom was born in Christchurch.
Mojammel Hoq, 30, moved to New Zealand from Bangladesh a few years ago and was studying in Christchurch, according to Radio New Zealand.
Mohammed Omar Faruk
Mohammed Omar Faruk, 36, was a welder who came to New Zealand from Bangladesh about two years ago, a friend told Stuff. His pregnant wife remained in Bangladesh, the friend said.
Muhammed Abdusi Samad
Muhammed Abdusi Samad, 66, from Bangladesh, was a lecturer at Lincoln University who often led prayers at Al Noor mosque, Stuff reported.
Muse Nur Awale
Muse Nur Awale, 77, had been living in Christchurch for about 30 years, Stuff reported. He was married and had no children.
Ahmed Gamaluddin Abdel-Ghany
Ahmed Gamaluddin Abdel-Ghany, 68, emigrated from Egypt with his wife and son in 1996, Stuff reported. His son, Omar, called him “a great man with the purest of hearts” in an Instagram post.
Zakaria Bhuiya was a welder originally from Bangladesh. He had recently married a woman from his home country and was waiting for a visa so she could join him in New Zealand, according to Reuters. Bhuiya worked for AMT Mechanical Services, which said in a statement that he had taken the day off to celebrate his 33rd birthday at the mosque.
“Zakaria was a respected member of our team and a dear friend of ours,” the company said in a statement posted on a fundraising page for Bhuiya’s wife.