By Amos Fofung
Had it not been for the courageous attempt and timely intervention of Nigerian born Muslim leader, Imam Alabi Lateef, the casualties from New Zealand’s ChristChurch shootings that left 50 dead with dozens other injured, could have been way more.
Survivors of the March 15 attack on the Muslim community in New Zealand continue to shower praises, appreciations, and gratitude to the Nigerian Imam, saying if not for his warnings and shouting, alerting them to lie down or run, they too would have been among the unfortunate victims.
On the March 15 attacks, 42 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven were killed at the Linwood mosque and one more person died later from the attack of Brenton Harrison Tarrant who open fire on the two mosques.
The Nigerian who moved to New Zealand in 2016 had told people to run for their lives after he spotted the gun-wielding Brenton Harrison entering while he led prayers.
Survivors have said they owe their lives to Brother Lateef, as the Nigerian is commonly called. He was pictured after the attack at Linwood mosque with the garment soaked with blood. It was later revealed that his garment was stained as he attended to the injured.
He is today regarded as a hero in New Zealand and praised for his selflessness. But he humbly insisted that he had just been doing God’s will, saying the “the heroes are those people who passed away, not me.
The Mirror quotes him to have said; “But I thank God Almighty for using me to save the few lives that I could.”
Recounting how the incident unfolded, he narrates that “I shouted at my brothers and sisters, ‘Get down, get down’. Some didn’t listen, they didn’t understand what I meant.”
“Sadly, one brother was standing right by the window and the gunman saw him and shot him. The glass smashed and the brother fell down dead. He shot him right in the head.
“That’s when everyone knew what was happening. Everyone understood we were under attack. I went to the side of the entrance and waited for him. I was going to try to grab the gun off him.
“I was ready to die to defend my brothers and sisters and stop any more bloodshed.”
He said together with another worshiper, Abdul Aziz, they threw “a credit card machine we use to collect donations during prayers at him, that seemed to deter him and he dropped the gun and left. Myself and Abdul followed. He was going to his car to get more guns. Abdul picked up the gun he had left and threw it at the man’s car. It smashed the windscreen. After that, the man drove away.”
“If it wasn’t for chasing him, he would have returned and killed many more, he told The Mirror UK.
The Nigerian Imam said he then returned and started picking up the bodies to know who was dead and who was alive so as to attend to them. His selflessness and intervention has spotlighted him for weeks in New Zealand as the country recovers from the attacks which prompted a change in the country’s gun laws
The attacker, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, now faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges for his March 15 attacks which he filmed and live streamed online. The 28-years-old white supremacist still in custody as the case unfolds in court, is said to have planned the attack for two years.