A Nigerian born Islamic cleric, Lateef Alabi, has been identified as one of the survivors of the terrorist attack that killed 49 people in New Zealand on Friday.
Alabi was praying with others inside Linwood Masjid, the second mosque attacked by self-confessed white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, when he heard the sound of gunfire.
A leader in the mosque, Alabi has been in New Zealand for three years and is close to finishing a Ph.D. in Malaysia.
He is the acting imam of the Linwood mosque.
Recalling what happened when he heard the gunfire, Alabi told news website, Stuff, “I stopped my prayer, I peek through the window and I found a person with, you know, machine gun and heavy dress.
“By the time I peeked on the floor I see two, three dead bodies. Then realised oh, this must be something else. This is a terrorist attack.”
Alabi said he told worshippers to duck down and then described how another worshipper decided to confront the attacker during a lull in the gunfire.
“By the time he got there (outside the mosque) the bullets were finished and the gun was used,” Alabi recounted.
He said he started picking up bodies to know who was dead and who was alive, adding that he never expected to experience a terrorist attack in New Zealand.
He said the death toll would have been far higher at the Linwood mosque if it wasn’t for another hero, Abdul Aziz, who stood up to the gunman.
Aziz, 48, engaged the gunman in a cat-and-mouse chase before scaring him into speeding away in his car.
“Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that’s how we were saved,” Alabi said, referring to Aziz. “Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone,” Alabi told The Associated Press.
Alabi was photographed soon after the attack by local media wearing a grey tunic that was covered in blood.
He told Stuff that as soon as the attacker had left he ran back inside the mosque to help those who had been shot.
“I’m very sad for what has happened but I believe this country is a peaceful country and I hope something good will happen after this,” he said, fighting back tears.
“I never thought something like this would happen in New Zealand. Never.”