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New Zealand Honors Heroes of 2019 Mosque Attack

FILE - Mosque shooting survivor Abdul Aziz is held aloft as he thanks supporters outside the Christchurch High Court after the sentencing hearing for Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, in Christchurch, New Zealand on Aug. 27, 2020. Aziz is one of two wo

A man from Afghanistan who chased away a gunman who murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 has been given the country’s highest bravery award, the New Zealand Cross.

Abdul Aziz is among 10 people recognized for their courage during the March 2019 attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

The former refugee from Afghanistan threw a credit card machine at the gunman after he had opened fire at the Linwood Islamic Center. He ignored the bodies of murdered worshippers and ran toward the attacker, chasing him with a rifle the gunman had discarded.

Aziz has been awarded the New Zealand Cross for his courage.

He told Radio New Zealand that he simply wanted to protect his fellow worshippers.

“If I did not do that, we would lose a lot of our brothers and sisters, including myself as well,” he said. “On that time, I will be honest with you, I did not even think about any danger or anything.”

Another worshipper, Naeem Rashid, who died in the shootings after confronting the gunman at the Al Noor mosque, has been posthumously honored with the New Zealand Cross. Officials said his bravery, too, had saved lives. In a statement, his widow, Ambreen Naeem, said the “award is not only for him but for every peace-loving person who stands against hate.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the recipients of the bravery awards, including the two police officers who arrested the gunman, were “selfless and extraordinary.”

Brenton Tarrant, a self-confessed white supremacist from Australia, is serving a life sentence for the shootings. He admitted to the murder of 51 people, the attempted murder of another 40 people who were injured, and one charge of terrorism.

Many victims were migrants, including refugees from Syria, who went to New Zealand looking to escape conflict and violence.

A judge said Tarrant's actions were “inhuman.”

He will never be released from prison.