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New Zealand Cross Awarded for Brave Actions During Christchurch Attack

New Zealand awarded 10 people who risked their lives during the 2019 Christchurch attack that massacred 51 Muslims praying inside the mosques. The highest honour, the New Zealand Cross, went to Pakistani-origin Naeem Rashid, who died in the attack and Abdul Aziz, the survivor, for displaying bravery in a grave situation and confronting the gunman. This award is a non-combat equivalent of the British Victoria Cross and has been awarded only two times before in New Zealand’s history.

15 March 2019 shook New Zealand to the core when a white supremacist opened fire inside 2 mosques in the Christchurch area. First, he killed 44 people at Al-Noor Mosque during Friday prayers and then drove to the Linwood Mosque to kill 7 more.

New Zealand Cross to Naeem Rashid for Buying Time with His Life

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said that all recipients demonstrated selfless and extraordinary courage on that dark day. She added that they risked their lives for others, and if not for their collective actions, the loss of life could have been much higher. The martyred recipient of the New Zealand Cross, Dr Naeem Rashid, put his own life on the line to challenge the terrorist in Al-Noor Mosque. As the gunman Brenton Tarrant entered the mosque and started shooting, Rashid rushed at him, partially knocking him but getting shot in the process. Rashid’s son Talha was also killed. However, his actions caused a distraction for the gunman, allowing several people to escape the massacre. Rashid was also posthumously awarded the civilian honour of bravery, Nishan-e-Shujaat, by Pakistan in 2019.

Abdul Aziz Lures the “Coward” Away

New Zealand Cross also went to Abdul Aziz, who displayed great courage in challenging the deranged gunman at Linwood Mosque. Aziz kept yelling at Tarrant, which caused him to shift his focus and prevented more people from getting shot. He even threw an EFTPOS machine at the gunman while trying to chase him away. Aziz described that when he was ducking behind cars, he found an empty rifle thrown away by Tarrant. Aziz mentioned that he did not think about anything other than getting rid of that “coward”. So, he picked up the empty weapon and started following the gunfire inside the mosque. He grabbed Tarrant’s attention by yelling at him, who dropped his gun and ran back to his car after watching Aziz with a discarded rifle. Aziz chased after him for some time and threw the gun at his vehicle, smashing the window.

Other Bravery Awards

Besides 2 New Zealand Cross awards, 4 New Zealand Bravery Decoration and 4 New Zealand Bravery Medal were also awarded to those who helped people and caught the gunman.

Senior Constables Jim Manning and Scott Carmody received New Zealand Bravery Decoration for apprehending the gunman. The other 2 recipients for New Zealand Bravery Decoration were Ziyaad Shah, who got shot twice while shielding another worshipper with his body, and Liam Beale, who assisted the victims and stopped others from coming in that direction after hearing the gunshots and screams.

New Zealand Bravery Medal was awarded to Mark Miller, Lance Bradford, Mike Robinson, and Wayne Maley for searching victims and moving them to safety when Tarrant, who became radical from YouTube videos, was active in the area.

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