Youngest mosque victim liked playing with iPad, soccer ball

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — He spent just three years on this earth, but in some ways, a friend said, he seemed like an old soul. Before he became the youngest known victim of Christchurch's mass shooting, 3-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim had possessed intelligence beyond his years, and an affinity for his elders.

But on Friday, when a gunman stormed into the mosque where Mucaad was sitting with his big brother and father, it was Mucaad's youth that left him so vulnerable. In the chaos that ensued as people fled from the bullets, the tiny boy became separated from his family. On Sunday, his brother Abdi Ibrahim said that police had confirmed the worst: Their beloved little boy was dead.

Each of the 50 lives lost in Friday's senseless barrage of violence at the hands of a white supremacist has left an aching wound across this close-knit city. But the death of Mucaad, with his big brown eyes and sweet smile, has pierced with particular ferocity.

"He's been loved by the community here," said Ahmed Osman, a close family friend. "It's been tough days. It's been really tough days."

Mucaad was a joyful, energetic child who always seemed to be laughing, Abdi said. And he was bright, with an affinity for technology. His toy of choice was an iPad.

The toddler impressed Osman with his intelligence. Mucaad seemed to particularly enjoy talking to older people, he said.

"He was very approachable," Osman said. "He is easygoing to talk to."

Nearly every Friday at 6 p.m., Mucaad would go to the park not far from the mosque where his life would ultimately end. There, he would watch Abdi play soccer with Osman and their friends. The toddler would stand on the sidelines cheering them, and kicking a ball of his own along the grass, Osman recalled with a smile.

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Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A body lies on the footpath outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said. Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police attempt to clear people from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said. Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A man talks on his mobile phone across the road from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says a number of people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch; police urge people to stay indoors. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police attempt to move people away from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers on what the prime minister called "one of New Zealand's darkest days," as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police stand outside a mosque in Linwood, Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed during shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police stand outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A police officer escorts a man away from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police keep watch at a park across the road from a a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Members of the public react in front of the Masjd Al Noor Mosque as they fear for their relatives on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 49 people have been confirmed dead and more than 20 are injured following attacks at two mosques in Christchurch. Four people are in custody following shootings at Al Noor mosque on Dean's Road and the Linwood Masjid in Christchurch. Mosques across New Zealand have been closed and police are urging people not to attend Friday prayers as a safety precaution. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: A floral tribute is seen on Linwood Avenue near the Linwood Masjid on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 49 people have been confirmed dead and more than 20 are injured following attacks at two mosques in Christchurch. Four people are in custody following shootings at Al Noor mosque on Dean's Road and the Linwood Masjid in Christchurch. Mosques across New Zealand have been closed and police are urging people not to attend Friday prayers as a safety precaution. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on March 15, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. One person is in custody and police are searching for another gunmen following several shootings at mosques in Christchurch. Police have not confirmed the number of casualties or fatalities. All schools and businesses are in lock down as police continue to search for other gunmen. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Police Commissioner Mike Bush speaks to media during a press conference at Royal Society Te Aparangi on March 15, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. One person is in custody and police are searching for another gunmen following several shootings at mosques in Christchurch. Police have not confirmed the number of casualties or fatalities. All schools and businesses are in lock down as police continue to search for other gunmen. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
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Mucaad had planned to go to the park, as usual, on Friday evening. He would never get the chance.

That afternoon, he joined Abdi and their father at the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers. Mucaad was sitting just in front of Abdi, listening to the imam, when a thunder of bullets shattered the peace.

Everyone began to run. Abdi thought his father had Mucaad. In the rush and the crush of people, the trio became separated.

That was the last time Abdi saw his baby brother. After an agonizing search by the family, police confirmed that Mucaad was dead, Abdi said.

On Sunday, Abdi waited at Christchurch's airport for the arrival of another one of his brothers, Abdifatah Ibrahim, who had been overseas when the massacre occurred. The shooting, Abdi said, still felt like a terrible dream.

"My mum, she's been struggling," Abdi said. "Every time she sees other people crying, emotional, she just collapses."

A few minutes later, Abdifatah emerged through the arrivals gate. He and Abdi wrapped their arms around each other in a tight embrace. And then they went to wait for the release of their little brother's body so they could lay him to rest, a life ended before it had barely begun.

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