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August 10, 2019

200 hit by New Zealand massacre take part in Haj


August 10, 2019

MAKKAH: Two hundred survivors and relatives of victims of March’s massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are undertaking the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to “pray for the martyrs”.

“I want the world to know who Atta Elayyan was,” said 27-year-old Farah Talal, dressed in a green djellaba robe and an elegant white scarf during her visit to Islam’s holiest city. Her husband Atta was among 51 people killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers during Friday prayers in the quiet New Zealand town, sparking global revulsion.

“He was a wonderful person, generous, I want to pay tribute to him,” murmured the young woman of Jordanian-origin who, along with 200 others affected by the massacre, was invited to the hajj by Saudi’s King Salman.

Authorities have said they hope to “ease their suffering” as part of “the kingdom’s efforts in response to terrorism”. The survivors and relatives of victims were given a heroes’ welcome as they arrived on August 2. They were also greeted by the flashes of press cameras.

The Haj, the high point of the Islamic calendar, began on Friday. Drawing in more than two million Muslims from around the world, it will last five days. Atta Elayyan, of Palestinian-origin, ran an app development company and played goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national futsal side. He left behind a two-year-old daughter.

“He gave us the strength to carry on every day. He is a martyr, just like all the other victims of the carnage,” said Talal of her husband in a vast hotel complex reserved for guests of the Saudi royal family.

Amir Mohamed Khan, 14, lost his father Mohammed Imran Khan, a 47-year-old restaurateur originally from India, on March 15 in New Zealand’s worst mass killing in modern times. “I was in school on March 15,” said Khan, his green eyes glistening as he wore a traditional Shalwar Kameez. “I was very shocked, I didn’t have any reactions... I couldn’t believe it... I loved him so much.

“It will be very hard without him, but I’m thankful to be in Makkah today. I’m doing Haj for my father, to pray for him.” His friend Chouaib Milne, 16, lost his brother Sayyad Milne -- two years his junior -- when he was killed while praying in Christchurch’s Al-Noor mosque, one of the two places of worship targeted.

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