The retired air-force officer managed not only to successfully pin the attacker to the ground but disarm him, even though the attacker shoved a finger into his eye.
Rabat – A 65-year-old man is being hailed internationally for his quick and courageous thinking during a terrorist attack on a mosque in Norway.
On Saturday, a far-right extremist opened fire at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre in Baerum, west of the capital, Oslo. The attacker was wearing a helmet and body armor, and carrying several weapons, according to witnesses.
There were three people inside the mosque at the time. No one was seriously injured, thanks to the brave actions of Mohammad Rafiq, a retired Pakistani air force officer.
Irfan Mushtaq, the mosque’s director and one of the three people inside the mosque at the time, described the dramatic scene to the BBC.
“This guy came to the door, and our hero, was very fast to react,” Mushtaq said. “He had just sat down to read the quran, and he got up and started moving towards the terrorist attacker, even though the attacker was shooting at the time, and took control of the attacker from the front.”
Rafiq successfully managed not only to pin the attacker to the ground but disarm him, even though the attacker shoved his finger into the 65-year-old man’s eye. Mushtaq and the other worshippers rushed to help Rafiq and successfully subdued the man.
Rafiq’s lawyer, Abdul-Satar Ali, told the Washington Post in a telephone interview his client suffered injuries to the head, hand and eye during the incident.
“There is no doubt that the swift and firm response from the persons inside the mosque stopped the aggressor,” acting Police Station Chief Rune Skjold said in a statement. “These persons showed great courage.”
“A direct attack on Norwegian Muslims”
Thanks to the efforts of worshippers, police apprehended the attacker, who has been identified as 21-year-old Philip Manshaus. Police also found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister at his residence after the attack.
Manhaus has been charged with attempted murder for his attack on the mosque, and the murder of his stepsister. According to his defence lawyer, Unni Fries, he is denying the charges and refusing to speak to investigators.
He appeared in court in Oslo on Monday, August 13, covered in bruises and scratches, presumably from his confrontation with worshippers in the mosque. The judge gave police permission to hold Manshaus in custody for an initial four weeks while he is investigated.
According to Norwegian authorities, Manshaus had “expressed hostile attitudes against immigrants” prior to the attack.
Authorities also said that they are investigating the authenticity of posts under Manhaus’ name. The posts announced his planned attack and referenced both the recent Christchurch and the El Paso attacks by far-right extremists.
Norway’s Conservative Party Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, called the incident a “direct attack on Norwegian Muslims,” in a statement on Sunday, August 11. She also vowed to combat Islamophobic hate speech.
The attempted attack is reminiscent of one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent years, when far-right extremist Anders Breivik killed 88 people in an attack on a summer camp near Oslo.
Brenton Tarrant, who is accused of murdering 51 people in a terrorist attack on a mosque Christchurch in March, made references to Breivik in his manifesto.
Just this month, another terrorist with anti-immigration and white-nationalist beliefs, killed twenty people in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday, August 3.
He posted a manifesto online entitled “The Inconvenient Truth,” warning against the supposed dangers of mass immigration, claiming that Hispanics will eventually take over the economy and government in the US.