Husband of slain woman forgives New Zealand mosque gunman

Farid Ahmed, above, said his wife was busy saving people during the attack. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Husband of slain woman forgives New Zealand mosque gunman

  • The husband says forgiveness is the best thing, among others
  • His wife was helping women and children exit from their designated hall

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Farid Ahmad loved his wife — and he loves and forgives the terrorist who killed her.

“The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity,” said Farid, 59, confined to a wheelchair since a car accident in 1998.

His wife Husna, 44, was one of 50 people killed in Friday’s terrorist attack at Al-Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand. Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, has been charged with murder.

Ahmad says that if he could speak to Tarrant: “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 rather than destroy them.

“I want him to look for that positive attitude, and I hope and I pray for him, that he will be a great civilian one day. I don’t have any grudge.”

Ahmad and his wife moved to New Zealand from Bangladesh in 1990, and they have one daughter.

When the gunman opened fire at Al-Noor mosque, Husna helped people escape from the women’s and children’s hall. “She was screaming ‘Come this way, hurry up,’ and she took many children and ladies toward a safe garden,” Ahmad said.

“Then she was coming back to check on me, because I was in a wheelchair, and as she was approaching the gate she was shot. She was busy saving lives, forgetting about herself.”

As massive piles of flowers were laid near the mosques on Sunday and crowds of people of all faiths gathered to pay respects, more stories emerged of courage and grief.

Friends mourned Atta Elayyan, 33, originally from Kuwait, the goalkeeper for New Zealand’s futsal team. Ghassan Alaraji, 35, from Iraq, said he had seen footage of Atta trying to stop the gunman.

“That was my friend Atta,” he said. “He was trying to help and protect others from being shot. He was very, very brave.”

New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell said: “My heart goes out to the futsal community. They are a very tight-knit group and Atta’s death will be devastating for all involved in the game. We feel their pain and their grief.”

Abdul Aziz, 48, from Afghanistan, confronted the gunman at the Linwood center and picked up a shotgun that he had dropped. “I chased him,” Aziz said. “He sat in his car and with the shotgun in my hands, I threw it through his window like an arrow. He just swore at me and took off.”


Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago
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Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

  • The priest was celebrating mass at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory when a tall man approached and stabbed him
  • Security guards and other churchgoers quickly restrained the suspect and was arrested by police

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.

Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”