A Dubai-based New Zealander of Iraqi origin took a bullet in his back while trying to protect his two sons during the devastating terrorist attack at the Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, Gulf News has learnt.
Adeeb Sami, 52, who heads the Al Ain and Oman operations of engineering consultancy Aecom Middle East, dived over his sons Abdullah, 29, and Ali, 23, as the gunman burst into the mosque during Friday prayers and started firing indiscriminately.
Among the worshippers caught in the gunfire were Adeeb and his two sons.
“My dad is a real hero. He got shot in the back near his spine in an attempt to shield my brothers but he didn’t let anything happen to them,” Adeeb’s daughter, Heba, 30, told Gulf News in a voice choked with emotions.
Adeeb was rushed to a hospital where he underwent surgery to extract the bullet.
Heba said she has been in touch with her family and is relieved to know that her father is out of danger.
“I spoke to dad. He sounded weak and appeared inconsolable.
“My family survived the attack but many of our friends didn’t. Among the nearly 50 dead are five close family friends, including a 12-year-old boy,” said Heba, who was raised in Dubai and now is part owner of a design company.
Heba said her dad had flown to New Zealand with her mum Sana Alahar on Thursday to surprise their son and daughter on their birthday.
“Ali and Hamsa are twins. They turned 23 today [Friday]. So my parents flew down to New Zealand to celebrate the occasion. Who would have thought the celebration would turn into a national mourning? I wonder if we will ever be able to come to terms with this terrible tragedy. It has shaken me to the core and left me numb with shock and disbelief. My day has passed in an unrealistic blur. My phone has not stopped ringing since the news of the attack broke on TV. You get to see such things only in movies.
'This is not us'
“To say that I am living a nightmare is an understatement. That said, I am thankful to Allah that my dad and brothers are alive. I offered sadqa (charity) the moment I heard they are safe. I just hope that my father recovers completely and comes back home soon. His grandson is his biggest fan and is eagerly waiting for his return,” said Heba, mother of a 15 month old boy.
Meanwhile Kiwi expats in the UAE reacted to the attack with horror. Shamim Kassibawi who works for a PR company in Dubai said the sick psychopath behind the mass shootings does not represent her nation.
“New Zealand is ranked among the friendliest countries in the world. Nothing remotely close to this has ever happened in our country,” said Kassimbawi from Auckland,
Dubai based techie R.Wilson, 42, from Wellington described his country as very accommodating. “As our prime minister rightly said, New Zealand represents diversity, kindness, compassion. We are home for those who share our values and refuge for those who need it. These values cannot be shaken by this attack,” he said.
A statement from New Zealand’s Ambassador to the UAE Matthew Hawkins:
“Today Christchurch and New Zealand suffered a deplorable and unprecedented terrorist attack.
The Prime Minister has condemned this senseless act of violence against innocent people. She has described this as one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.
This act of terror goes against the core of what New Zealand stands for. We represent diversity, kindness, compassion. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.
Authorities have acted swiftly in response to this abhorrent act and Police have made arrests.
Many of the victims will be from New Zealand’s refugee and migrant communities who had gathered to practise their religion and culture.Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was their home. For many, this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many, New Zealand was their choice. It was a place that many came to for its safety.
New Zealand is known around the world as a peaceful and safe country. We will not allow this unprecedented act of terror to change that.
We are very grateful for the overwhelming messages of condolence and support from the people and government of the UAE at this difficult time.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister statement:
Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ali Al Hakim contacted the family of Adeeb Sami. The ministry contacted the family through the ministry's spokesperson Ahmad Al Sahaf.
"We checked on Mr Adeeb's health after a successful operation to extract the bullet. The Ministry is ready to provide the required assistance to the family," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Gulf News in a statement.