Ahmed Khan Fled War As A Teen, Only To Face A Killer In Christchurch
Ahmed Khan’s voice is so quiet it's almost inaudible. His eyes are flat. Expressionless.
“It was pretty shocking,” he said.
Friday was a quiet autumn morning. The leaves in the park were starting to turn.
After lunch, he went for prayers at the Linwood mosque in a suburb stretching towards the estuary that leads to the sea.
As they prepared for prayers, none of the worshippers knew the much larger An Noor mosque five kilometres away was already under attack.
The first warning was the sound of shots in the driveway.
“As soon as I looked through the window, somebody was lying on the ground and bleeding,” Ahmed said.
His first instinct was to rush to help.
“As soon as I went through the door, the guy with the gun shot at me but I dodged down. The bullet went past and hit the wall. “
Ahmed, 27, turned back into the mosque shouting for everyone to get down.
His glimpse of the gunman chilled him. He was dressed like someone ready for combat. Ahmed saw more than one gun and had the sense of a lot of ammunition.
As a child in Kabul, he had seen a lot of armed men. This one, he said, “was well weaponised".
What followed, he said, was “terrible".
"There were children everywhere. [They] got shot, women, elderly men.
"Everywhere was shocking. Everyone was screaming.”
The firing stopped. The gunman left. Dazed, Ahmed found himself uninjured. His first focus was a baby.
“I tried to put it in my lap but there was another guy who was injured. I was holding him as well," he said.
He made a decision to focus on the adult.
“The baby was shot in the leg… I think hopefully he was fine. The man that I was holding had a few shots in the chest.”
The man wanted someone to call his mother in India. Ahmed told him the police had arrived and help was coming. But horrifyingly, the next person he saw was the gunman. He had returned.
“The gunman comes through around the block, in the window. I thought he had already left," he said.
Ahmed was still cradling a critically injured man.
“While I was holding him (the gunman) shot him in the head.”
At the last count, eight people are confirmed dead in the Linwood massacre.
Ahmed has been in New Zealand since he was 15. His family fled Afghanistan and was selected for resettlement in New Zealand through a program run by the United Nations.
In refugee terms, they had won the lottery. Now he feels that security has been shredded.
"I never thought there was going to be anything happening in New Zealand like this.”
As I spoke to Ahmed, a late model 4WD ute drove by packed with young white men. They loudly heckled three middle-aged Muslim men walking towards the hospital.
It was a jarring moment. I grew up in Christchurch. Old friends admit there is a white supremacist movement here but say they have been generally considered a fringe element.
“A few disgusting druggie skinheads with swastika tattoos,” said one old schoolmate, now a lawyer.
The overwhelming statement of the city’s mood is seen in the flowers piling near the hospital and outside mosques. Among the children’s simple drawings, the candles and the handwritten notes are many that say “Kia kaha".
It is Maori for “stay strong” -- the unofficial Christchurch motto after the scarring earthquake of eight years ago.
Flyers have been posted all over town denouncing racism, terrorism, supremacism.
“This is the home you chose and this will be the home that protects you,” the posters promise.
Ahmed Ahmed admits he can’t take any of it in.
“I’m all right. I just haven’t slept for a couple of days now.”
Featured image: 10 News First / AAP