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Matiullah Safi fled his war-torn homeland hoping to find refuge from the gunfire in New Zealand.

"Death was still a bullet, even coming to the safest place in the world," said his nephew, Harry Khan.

Safi, a father of six children, was slain during a lone terrorist attack on two central city Christchurch mosques on March 15.

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Khan will remember his uncle as a kind, selfless, and devoutly religious man who "always had a smile on his face" .

The 55-year-old spent a great deal of time at the mosque where he encouraged his family to go worship.

"He was really into sharing the faith with everyone, spreading the message of love and Islam," Khan said.

Even though he had faced some tough things in life, Safi continued to want to help others, he said.

"He had been through a lot."

He had lost a brother to the war in Afghanistan and because of that he moved to India, he said.

Safi moved to New Zealand more than a decade ago and was a citizen when he died in the mass shooting at Masjid Al Noor Mosque.

Khan was first alerted to the shooting by another uncle who used a group chat on Viber, normally used to organise family cricket games, to warn them of the danger.

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The 20-year-old university student quickly called the same uncle who told him in a hurried voice that there was shooting and to stay away from the mosque.

Earlier that day, Khan's brother had told him he was going to the Linwood mosque. The 20-year-old would have also gone had it not been for university assignments he wanted to finish.

Khan called his brother again and again with no response.

His mother tried the same.

Shortly before 2pm his brother rang during the gunfire, adamant they needed to stay away from the mosque and call the police.

"It's too dangerous."

Khan called the police who told him they were already sending people.

"But they were talking about the Deans Ave mosque and, at the time, I told them it's not the Deans Ave mosque there's another one in Linwood."

Twenty long minutes passed before Khan learned of his brother's safety.

The shooter had been scared away from the smaller of the two mosques by Abdul Aziz, who had run outside screaming and hurled a credit card machine at the lone gunman.

"That saved a lot of people's lives including my brother's," Khan said.

It would be a longer wait before the family knew for certain Safi had died.

"It was not until like two days later that we found out he was shot dead."

The waiting was difficult for his immediate family, Khan said.

His children, some still teenagers, were all waiting at the hospital, he said.

"Some of them were even watching that shooting video, trying to find their dad in there."

Khan told them not to watch, adding who they thought was their father in the video could be anyone.

For the first day or so it all felt like a dream, he said.

"It all felt so unreal. It was really sad. At the same time it was really surprising as well, seeing something like that happen here.

"New Zealand is such a safe place, something of that proportion has never happened here."

Khan said it was incredible to see the support that had been offered at Hagley Park, with people bringing food and water to affected families at the cordon.

The Prime Minister had been among those who came to show her support, he said.

"They can't take away the pain of the dead bodies but they can definitely share that pain."

It definitely helped a lot of the families and the strong police presence had made people feel a lot safer, he said.