Six of the victims of Friday’s shooting rampage at two New Zealand mosques were of Palestinian origin, as were at least six of the wounded, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Saturday, citing the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
Among the victims was Atta Elayyan, 33, who served as goalkeeper on New Zealand’s national futsal team (futsal is an indoor variant of soccer). His father Mohammed Elayyan, wounded in the attack, co-founded one of the mosques in 1993.
Muath Elayyan, Mohammed’s brother, told the Associated Press his brother helped establish the mosque a year after arriving in New Zealand, where he teaches engineering at a university and runs a consultancy.
“He used to tell us life was good in New Zealand and its people are good and welcoming. He enjoyed freedom there and never complained about anything,” Muath said.
My Heart is broken, a role model to myself and so many in the futsal community, a loving KIWI father, husband, friend and futsal player. You won’t ever meet a more down to earth, humbling person. May you Rest In Peace my friend @attaelayyan ????????❤️ #ChristchurchTerrorAttack pic.twitter.com/r631Ly0iPz
— Kyle Wisnewski (@wiswaskins) March 16, 2019
“It is with great sadness that we learned today that New Zealand Futsal goalkeeper Atta Elayyan has died during the painful Christchurch attacks,” FIFA said on Twitter. “All our condolences to the family of Elayyan and the families of the victims who died in the attacks.”
Over the weekend Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza held vigils to honor the victims of the massacre, in which 49 people were killed.
Brenton Tarrant, a self-described fascist, has been charged with murder in the shooting.
The massacre during Friday prayers prompted a heartfelt response from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and said the shooter, an Australian native, had chosen to strike in New Zealand “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion.”
Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation’s security alert remained at the second-highest level a day after the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.
AP contributed to this report.