Saudi family tell of their grief for beloved father killed in Christchurch terrorist massacre
By NOOR NUGALI, RAWAN RADWAN & DANIEL NIELSEN
RIYADH/JEDDAH/CHRISTCHURCH: Mohsin Al-Harbi loved Al-Noor mosque. Some weeks, he preached there. Some days, he picked up a broom and swept the floor. On Friday, in a hail of bullets from a terrorist’s gun, he died there.
Amid the chaos, Mohsin’s wife Manal searched for her husband in the mosque where earlier there had been hundreds of worshippers. The carpet was drenched in blood. There were bodies on the floor. It was too much, and she collapsed.
Now Manal and Mohsin’s family in Saudi Arabia are among dozens mourning the 49 people shot dead at Al-Noor and at the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, from New South Wales in Australia, appeared in court in Christchurch on Saturday on a single charge of murder. The judge said further murder charges would follow.
Handcuffed and wearing a white prison suit, Tarrant stood silently in court as he was remanded in custody, moving only to make a white supremacist hand signal. He is due back in court on April 5.
Meanwhile the families of the victims spoke of their grief as they prepared to bury the dead.
“My father lived a full life. It was a good life,” Mohsin’s son Feras Al-Harbi told Arab News.
Mohsin, 61, from Madinah, worked in water desalination, and had lived in New Zealand for 25 years. His son said he was a good man, a devoted Muslim who was also a part-time imam.
Many witnessed Mohsin’s kindness, including student Moshari Sa’ad. “Last January, I visited the mosque,” he said. “One day, at 10 a.m. in the middle of the week, I found Uncle Mohsin with his sleeves rolled up and in sweatpants sweeping the mosque himself. He smiled and welcomed me warmly.”
Amid the grief, there was relief for those who survived. Saudi teenager Aseel Al-Ansari, 19, was shot through the knee. He had emergency surgery on Saturday morning and is expected to be discharged from hospital on Sunday.
Aseel left his home in Makkah only 12 days ago to study English in Christchurch. The next time his father Sulaiman Khairat Al-Ansari saw him was in shocking online footage, fleeing the terrorist’s bullets.
“I saw my son, in a video, running in the streets with the gunman shooting after him. I couldn’t believe my eyes and my heart dropped,” he said.
Sulaiman, who works for the infection control department at the Saudi Health Ministry, received news of his son’s injury from the Saudi Embassy in Auckland. Within an hour, he was able to speak to his son from his hospital bed.
“I’m thankful to the Saudi Embassy, I got to speak to my son so fast,” he said. Sulaiman is grateful for the kindness of a family who sheltered Aseel from the attack. “They protected him. They took him to the hospital to get treatment,” he said. “They saved my son. This is all fate, and his mother and I will help him get through this.”