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‘Hero’ refugee saved lives after running towards New Zealand terrorist

Abdul Aziz, survivor of mosque shooting, has been hailed a hero. Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

A refugee who ran towards the Christchurch terror attacker is being hailed a hero for preventing more deaths with his quick-thinking actions.

When the attacker, alleged to be white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, entered the Linwood mosque in Christchurch, Abdul Aziz, picked up the first thing he could find – a credit card machine – and ran outside, screaming: "Come here!"

His actions led the gunman on a cat-and-mouse chase before scaring him into speeding away in his car.

But Mr Aziz, whose four sons and dozens of others remained in the mosque while he faced off with the gunman, said he thinks it’s what anyone would have done.

The terrorist killed 49 people after attacking two mosques in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.

The death toll from the attack currently stands at 49 people.

Mourners place flowers as they pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch Credit: Vincent Yu/AP

Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder and a judge said on Saturday that it is reasonable to assume more charges would follow.

Latef Alabi, the Linwood mosque’s acting imam, said the death toll would have been far higher if it wasn’t for Mr Aziz.

Mr Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque at about 1:55 pm and stopped the prayer he was leading and peeked out the window. He saw a man in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun, and assumed it was a police officer. Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities.

“I realised this is something else. This is a killer,” he said.

Police are continuing to investigate the terrorist incident. Credit: AP

He yelled at the congregation of more than 80 to get down. They hesitated. A shot rang out, a window shattered and a body fell, and people began to realise it was for real.

“Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that’s how we were saved,” Mr Alabi said, referring to Mr Aziz.

“Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone.”

New Zealand is in mourning following the attack. Credit: AP

Mr Aziz said as he ran outside screaming, he was hoping to distract the attacker. He said the gunman ran back to his car to get another gun, and Mr Aziz hurled the credit card machine at him.

He said he could hear his two youngest sons, aged 11 and five, urging him to come back inside.

The gunman returned, firing. Mr Aziz said he ran, weaving through cars parked in the driveway, which prevented the gunman from getting a clean shot. Then Mr Aziz spotted a gun the gunman had abandoned and picked it up, pointed it and squeezed the trigger. It was empty.

Flowers have been Credit: AP

He said the gunman ran back to the car for a second time, likely to grab yet another weapon.

“He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window,” he said.

The window shattered: “That’s why he got scared.”

He said the gunman was cursing at him, yelling that he was going to kill them all. But he drove away and Mr Aziz said he chased the car down the street to a red light, before it made a U-turn and sped away.

Online videos indicate police officers managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.

The country is in mourning following the mosque attack. Credit: AP

Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Mr Aziz said he left as a refugee when he was a boy and lived for more than 25 years in Australia before moving to New Zealand a couple of years ago.

“I’ve been to a lot of countries and this is one of the beautiful ones,” he said. And, he always thought, a peaceful one as well.

Mr Aziz said he did not feel fear or much of anything when facing the gunman. It was like he was on autopilot.

And he believes that God, that Allah, did not think it was his time to die.

New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, pronounced the day of the attack as "one of New Zealand's darkest." She vowed that the country's gun legislation will change in the aftermath of the attack.