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Christchurch mosque attack victims address gunman: 'We did not deserve your actions'

Warning - This story discusses details of the 15 March Christchurch mosque shootings.

The bravery of Christchurch terror attack victim, Naeem Rashid, saved the lives of others.

Naeem Rashid charged at Brenton Harrison Tarrant as he sprayed bullets around Al Noor Mosque at worshippers attempting to escape the main prayer room.

Despite being shot Rashid crashed into the gunman, knocking him onto a knee.

Tarrant is being sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch today for the murder of 51 worshippers at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque on 15 March 2019.

The 29 year old sat quietly and emotionless as his actions were detailed in court.

The summary of facts was read this morning, detailing the terrorist's bloody attack.

Heavily armed and wearing a full tactical vest with at least seven fully loaded firearms magazines and a bayonet-style knife attached, Tarrant entered the grounds of Al Noor Mosque and opened fire shortly after the beginning of Jumu'ah.

In his car were more firearms and incendiary devices fashioned from petrol cannisters.

The summary detailed how Rashid's actions saved lives by allowing others to escape the prayer room after Tarrant entered the mosque.

"The main prayer room is a large open-plan room with few exits. At this time there were in excess of 120 worshippers present. On hearing the first shots this large group had moved en masse towards the only two exits - one in the north-eastern corner and one in the south-eastern corner," the summary said.

"In these corners the worshippers were huddled together and on top of each other attempting to hide from the defendant as there was nowhere for them to escape in the open room.

"The defendant turned to his right and fired 32 shots from his AR-15 into the mass of people in the north-eastern corner of the room. The rate of fire was extremely high and the defendant moved the AR-15 across and back many times.

"While continuing to fire into this group the defendant turned his head and looked at a similar group of people huddled together trying to escape through a single-exit door located in the south-eastern corner of the room.

"The defendant turned the firearm towards the south-eastern mass of people. As he did this, Naeem Rashid ran at the defendant from the south-eastern corner of the room.

"When Mr Rashid was approximately one metre from the defendant, the defendant swung the AR-15 around and fired four shots at point-blank range with one shot hitting Mr Rashid's left shoulder.

"Mr Rashid crashed into the defendant and the defendant went down on one knee. The impact dislodged one of the ammunition magazines from the defendant's tactical vest.

"Mr Rashid's actions allowed a number of other worshippers to escape."

Tarrant shot the injured man three more times - killing him.

He murdered 44 people at the mosque and 35 others suffered gunshot wounds.

The terrorist then drove to Linwood Mosque, where he killed seven more and injured five others.

Planning and reconnaisance

The summary revealed Tarrant modified his high-powered rifles, purchased legally using a New Zealand firearms licence.

He utilised military-specification sighting systems and telescopic sights. He also modified the triggers to allow him to fire the guns at a faster rate.

He also bought some 7000 rounds of ammunition.

The terrorist used the internet to obtain information about mosques around New Zealand including detailed plans, interior pictures, and details such as prayer times and important dates in the Islamic calendar.

On 8 January 2019, he travelled to Christchurch from his home in Dunedin to carry out reconnaisance of Al Noor Mosque.

Taking a position across the road, he flew a drone over the mosque and recorded an aerial view of its grounds and buildings.

"The defendant then flew the drone back over the Al Noor Mosque, in particular the entry and exit doors," the summary of facts said.

"From this time the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre became his primary targets to attack. He also planned to attack the Ashburton Mosque after leaving the Linwood Islamic Centre.

"The defendant made detailed notes regarding the timings as to entry to the mosques and anticipated times for carrying out the attacks and travelling between the mosques.

"The planned time for entry was to ensure the maximum number of worshippers would be present.

"The defendant analysed the mosque layouts to determine likely exit routes fleeing worshippers might utilise."

The terrorist's explanation

Following the attack on Linwood Islamic Centre, Tarrant left along Linwood Avenue before turning right into Aldwins Road and right onto Brougham Street.

Two police officers in a patrol car were able to ram his vehicle and arrest him without resistance.

During his interview with police he admitted carrying out the attacks and said he went into both mosques with the intention of killing as many people as he could.

"He admitted that the incendiary devices were to burn the mosques down and said he wished he had done so," the summary said.

"He stated that he wanted to have shot more people than he did and was on the way to another mosque in Ashburton to carry out another attack when he was stopped.

"In his interview the defendant referred to his attacks as 'terror attacks'. He further stated the attacks were motivated by his ideological beliefs and he intended to instil fear into those he described as 'invaders' including the Muslim population or more generally non-European immigrants."

Victim impact statements read

Victims of the attack have started reading their victim impact statements.

Gamal Fouda, Imam of the Al Noor Mosque, addressed the gunman directly as he read his statement.

Fouda was starting a sermon when the gunman entered the mosque.

"You were misguided and misled," he told Tarrant.

"We are a peaceful and loving community. We did not deserve your actions.

"We go to the mosque for peace and worship.

"Your hatred is unnecessary. If you have done anything you have brought the community closer together with your evil actions."

The convicted terrorist made eye contact with the Imam, but did not react in anyway.

He sat emotionless, shackled and surrounded by Corrections officers.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Daily wellbeing actions from the Mental Health Foundation

Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing resources

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