March 11, 2020 / 7:15 AM / 6 days ago

New Zealand mosque attack survivor says shooting has damaged him for life

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (Reuters) - A man shot three times by an armed attacker who stormed a mosque in New Zealand last year says the incident has left him physically and mentally damaged for life.

FILE PHOTO: Armed police officers stand guard outside Al Noor mosque where more than 40 people were killed by a suspected white supremacist during Friday prayers on March 15, in Christchurch, New Zealand April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Sheikh Hasan Rubel, 35, was offering prayers at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch on March 15 last year when the gunman burst in and started shooting.

The attack, streamed live of Facebook, killed 51 Muslim worshippers and injured dozens of others in New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.

Two bullets ripped through Rubel’s pelvis while another one went through his leg.

As New Zealand prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack, Rubel says he is getting really anxious as the memories flood back.

“As 15th of March is approaching it’s a really shaky feeling for me,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

“That (attack) has damaged me physically a little bit but mostly it damaged my inside. Even nowadays when I remember that moment, how scared I was ... how helpless I was,” he said.

Rubel, who is an accountant by profession, uses a walking stick now and needs more surgery to repair his pelvis. He is undergoing counseling for mental trauma and also physiotherapy treatment.

“I still remember the feeling when I was getting shot by one after one bullet ... at one point I was thinking that at any time I can get shot anywhere and I’ll be dead,” Rubel said.

Throughout the attack, Rubel said he was thinking of his wife and young daughters.

Plans are underway for a prayer event in Christchurch on Friday and a national remembrance ceremony on Sunday, expected to be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The events will be held under tight security following recent threats against Al Noor mosque.

The attack took away all his confidence and he lives in fear now, Rubel said.

“I get really afraid for small things. Nowadays I think any incident can happen anytime.”

Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, is facing 92 charges related to the attack. He has pleaded not guilty and will face a trial in June.

Rubel, who moved to New Zealand from Bangladesh in 2015, says he has faith in New Zealand’s justice systems and hopes the culprit is punished. It would be hard, however, to ever forgive his attacker, he said.

“I’m not going to say that I forgive ... it’s a big word to say,” he said.

Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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