A New Zealand court has heard for the first time an official account of how a terrorist who murdered 51 people at two Christchurch mosques had intended to burn down both holy sites and attack a third.
The details of Australian terrorist, Brenton Tarrant’s deadly deeds were read as a sentencing hearing got underway today to decide his fate.
The court heard that a victim of the attack, Naeem Rashid, 50, (pictured) ran at Tarrant as he gunned down worshippers inside Masjid Al Noor Mosque on March 15 last year.
Rashid’s act of bravery was revealed in the Crown summary of facts on the first day of Tarrant’s sentencing in Christchurch’s High Court.
As his fellow worshippers fell dead around him, Rashid ran at Tarrant in the mosque’s main prayer room where more than 100 people were gathered for morning prayers.
The court heard that Rashid was approximately one metre from Tarrant when the terrorist swung his AR-15 gun toward him and fired four shots at point blank range.
One shot hit Rashid’s left shoulder as he slammed into the gunman, forcing him to the ground.
Rashid lay on this back and brought his knees to his chest to shield himself, as Tarrant then callously fired a fatal shot at him.
Tarrant stepped backward, and fired a further three shots at Rashid, the court heard.
“Mr Rashid’s actions allowed a number of other worshippers to escape,” the summary stated.
Tarrant then reloaded his weapon and stepped over Rashid’s dead body to re-enter the main prayer room, where he fired 32 shots into the southeastern corner of the room and then seven shots into the northeastern corner.
“Both of these areas had many victims lying on the floor trying to hide or trying to escape through the single doorways,” the summary said.
Mr Rashid’s actions were honoured at the Templeton Community Centre in May last year, where his family were presented the Nishan-e-Shujaat medal – the highest gallantry award a Pakistani civilian is able to receive.
Mr Rashid is survived by his wife, Ambreen Naeem and two sons, Abdullah Naeem, 19, and Ayaan Naeem, 5.
The family’s eldest son, Talha Naeem, was also killed at the Masjid Al Noor mosque where his father had acted so heroically to save the lives of the innocent.
Tarrant had initially pleaded not guilty to his offending but later admitted to the 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one of engaging in a terrorist act.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled to last four days.