3 Bangladeshis among dead

Lying on a bed in Christchurch Hospital, Mohtasim Billah said he did not know how he survived the gruesome terror attack on two mosques that killed at least 49 people yesterday.

“I heard a sound and thought it was from a short circuit. But the sound kept coming and people ran out of the mosque,” he told The Daily Star’s cricket correspondent last night while narrating how the horror unfolded at Al Noor Mosque.

“The gate of the mosque is small and not many people can come out through it at a time. I was crammed at the door with others when a bullet hit my thigh and I fell on the floor,” mumbled Mohtasim, a member of the small Bangladeshi Diaspora in Christchurch.

“I was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. I was still conscious before police turned up and carried me to an ambulance,” he said, adding that he was sitting on the second row on the right side inside the mosque, where, according to Reuters, at least 41 worshippers lost their lives. 

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This is the mosque, close to Hagley Park, where most of the Bangladeshi community members attend their prayers.

Although Mohtasim survived, three Bangladeshis are said to have been killed in the attack that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as “the country’s worst ever mass shooting”.

Till filing of this report last night, the New Zealand authorities and hospital sources were yet to disclose the details of the 49 dead.

According to Reuters, seven of the 49 victims were killed at a mosque in Linwood neighbourhood while one person died after being taken to the hospital.

A Bangladesh foreign ministry handout did not provide the details of the three Bangladeshis victims.  

“Among the casualties [about 50], there are reports of death of three Bangladeshi origins, and a few more critically injured. We still await details of them from the New Zealand security officials and hospital authorities officially,” it said.

However, the consulate of Bangladesh in Auckland provided details of the three.

“We so far can say that three Bangladeshis are dead,” Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, honorary counsel to the Consulate of Bangladesh in Auckland, told The Daily Star over phone.

At least four other injured Bangladeshis were undergoing treatment at hospital and there could be several others still missing, he said.

On behalf of Shafiqur, his wife Mahbuba Aziz gave details of the dead and the injured, saying that the dead were identified as Dr Abdus Samad, his wife, and another Hosne Ara Farid.

The family of Hosne Ara, who hailed from Jagalhat of Golapganj upazila in Sylhet, confirmed that she was among the victims. Quoting their relatives in New Zealand, they claimed that the woman died while trying to save her husband with disability.

Her husband survived.

Canterbury Christchurch University’s College of Business and Law teacher Mesbahuddin Chowdhury, while talking to The Daily Star, also said that these three people were killed in the shooting.

He said that Abdus Samad, a former teacher of Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh, was living in Christchurch for about 20 years.

Toaha Mohammad, son of Abdus Samad, while talking with this newspaper around 6:30pm, however, said his mother did not go to the mosque. He said the hospital authorities informed them that his father was bullet injured. “We are not sure whether my father is dead or alive”.

Both Mahbuba Aziz and Mesbahuddin said at least four Bangladeshis were undergoing treatment at the Christchurch Hospital.

Among so many people looking for their missing relatives and friends, a number of Bangladeshis thronged the hospital.

They said four critically injured Bangladeshis were at the hospital. They are: Lipi, Rubel, Mohtasim and Zakaria.

“Lipi Bhabi sustained a bullet wound on her left chest. The doctors had an operation. It has been four to five hours since then and we are yet to hear of any more update.

“What we have learnt is that she is still not out of danger. We are not sure how long it will take for her to regain consciousness. We are yet to hear anything from the doctors,” said the victim’s friend Mazfuza Akter Rina who was at the hospital.

Rina said that she was supposed to attend the Jumma prayers, but could not as her husband was ill.

“We are still looking for two missing friends. We don’t know what happened to them,” she added.

She said that one of them was Zakaria, and the other one was Omar Faruque. Zakaria was later spotted at the ICU of the hospital.

Asif Sheikh, an India dentist, was also looking for his Bangladeshi roommate Mozammel Haque, also a dentist.

He said: “It was really bad … I’m looking for my two roommates, two of my family friends, and two other friends. Two of them are father and son. I’m looking for them.

“No, he [Mozammel] is not married. He is my roommate.  I’m just waiting for him to be fine … I’m yet to get any trace of him,” said a distressed Asif.

Another Bangladeshi at the hospital, Mahbuba, said, “It is difficult to ascertain how many Bangladeshi expats went to the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. People are traumatised. Locals cannot say how many actually went there.”

“There is almost a curfew-like situation. Even the New Zealand government cannot say the actual figure of the casualties,” she added.

Counsel Shafiqur Rahman said he would go to Christchurch tomorrow morning to extend support to the Bangladeshi victims.

The Bangladesh High Commission directly and through the Honorary Consul of Bangladesh in Auckland circulated message to the Bangladeshi Diaspora in general, and Christchurch in particular, to remain calm, be indoors, avoid places of congregation and to obey the instructions of the law enforcers.

Mahbuba Aziz, Mesbahuddin and others living in Christchurch said that around 150 to 200 people of Bangladeshi origin live in the city. Some of them are teachers and students at the Canterbury Christchurch University and Lincoln University, Christchurch.

Some Bangladeshis, who go to Singapore as skilled labourers, also go to Christchurch to work as wielder and technician at different places, including at ship building sites.

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