Dec 16, 2021: Two New Zealanders with Pakistani origin were awarded the country’s highest gallantry award for fighting a white supremacist gunman during the 2019 terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques on Thursday, an attacked that killed 51 Muslim worshipers.
Naeem Rashid, who was killed in the attack, and Abdul Aziz, a survivor, were awarded the New Zealand Cross for their bravery during the March 2019 shootings in a situation of extreme danger. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the medal, which has been awarded only twice before, was a non-combat equivalent of New Zealand’s Victoria Cross.
Eight other people, including two police officers who caught gunman Brenton Tarrant as he tried to flee the scene in a car, also received medals for bravery. Arden said the honors’ actions may have prevented the death toll from rising.
“The courage demonstrated by these New Zealanders was selfless and extraordinary, they have our deepest respect and gratitude for their actions on that day,” she said.
Armed with semi-automatic weapons, Tarrant first attacked Friday worshipers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque before heading to Linwood’s prayer center, and live-streamed the massacre. Its victims were all Muslims, including children, women and the elderly. Rashid al-Noor was in the mosque and despite being shot in the shoulder, he was partially knocked down and charged with torment. Tarrant shot and killed Rashid, whose son Talha was also killed, but his distracting actions allowed many to flee.
Aziz confronted Tarrant as he approached Linwood, threw a credit card payment machine at him and then taunted him for trying to drag him out into the car park. He also pointed to an empty rifle that had been discarded by Tarrant, causing the gunman to flee in fear.
A judge last year sentenced Tarrant to the first life sentence in New Zealand, calling his actions “wicked” and “inhumane.”
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