Tardiness saves Christchurch mother and son from terrorist’s wrath

Hamza Abdi in an interview with Arab News. (AN photo by Daniel Nielsen)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Tardiness saves Christchurch mother and son from terrorist’s wrath

  • Siman Omar was speaking with a friend at Al Noor Mosque's gate when she saw the gunman enter
  • Hamza Abdi was delayed from entering the mosque by minutes as he had to park his car

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Being late for Friday prayers has saved the lives of two Christchurch residents.

Siman Omar, 52, and her son Hamza Abdi, 20, were running late for Friday prayers at Al Noor mosque. 

Abdi dropped his mother at the gate of the mosque and drove off to find somewhere to park the car.

Omar stopped to speak with a friend at the gate when she saw a short man wearing a helmet and carrying a big gun, striding through the gate. 

“He started shooting at the men taking their shoes off at the door. He just went ‘bam bam bam’.”

Omar ran and hid behind a car. She was visible ducking for cover in the background of alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant’s livestream of the event.

Omar said she never expected something like this could happen in Christchurch. She had been going to Friday prayers at the mosque since moving to New Zealand from Somalia 22 years ago

Her son Hamza Abdi said he parked his car on a side street near the mosque after dropping off his mum. 

“I was walking back and heard noises. I didn’t realize they were gun shots.”

A friend, “one of the Somali brothers,” says Abdi, told him to jump in his car. 

Still, Abdi, didn’t know what was going on until he saw a group of women run across Deans Ave, the road the mosque is located on.

His recall of events is hazy but he remembered getting out of the car and suddenly the car behind him was being shot at. 

The driver “just floored it” and Abdi ran. As he looked back, he could see the shooter putting his gun back in the car.

Abdi scampered over a fence and hid in a portable toilet. From there, he started calling people from his phone. 

“They didn’t believe me that this was happening.”

He went back to the mosque in search of his mother. The horror of what he encountered brings Abdi to tears.

“One man was holding a child in his arms. The kid had been shot. I just broke down.” 

Abdi was eventually reunited with his mother. They are now recovering at home in Christchurch, a place neither of them thought would ever experience something like this.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 22 March 2019
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.