KZN mosque attack: More questions than answers over bomb

2018-05-14 14:06
The Imam Hussain Mosque in Old Main Road in Ottawa, Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal. (Mxolisi Mngadi/News24)

The Imam Hussain Mosque in Old Main Road in Ottawa, Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal. (Mxolisi Mngadi/News24)

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There appears to be much confusion over the discovery of a bomb at a Shia mosque in Verulam, which came under attack last week.

Investigators are asking why the bomb was only found on Sunday, even though the premises was thoroughly cleaned on Friday in preparation for a funeral

The Hawks have confirmed that the device was a bomb.

"It triggers questions [on] why it was not seen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it was only seen on Sunday. Our investigations will reveal the truth," Hawks spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo told News24 on Monday.

He said the bomb was found next to the pulpit, by one of the worshippers who had been assisting with cleaning. 

READ: Cape Town Shia community 'tense' after KZN mosque attack

"After a thorough search on Friday, the place was handed back to them because there was going to be a funeral. After forensic experts had concluded their work, the mosque was then given to them on Friday.

"The chairperson of the [mosque] came on Saturday with some people and they did partial cleaning in the mosque and never saw the bomb. They only saw it on Sunday [when] they came back to do more cleaning," he said.

Mhlongo said he also found it bizarre that the person who found the bomb threw it outside with his bare hands.

"Someone saw it and threw it outside and it never exploded. We are left with so many questions." 

Asked whether they suspected an inside job, Mhlongo said he didn't want to speculate on anything at this stage.

READ: Verulam mosque attack: 'First they prayed, and then they wanted to kill'

"Our interviews with those who accessed the area will tell us. We will continue with our investigation to ascertain how it [the bomb] ended up there," he said.

Mhlongo added that explosive experts who removed the bomb on Sunday night revealed that it was designed to burn.

He could not tell whether it would have burned the whole mosque to the ground if it detonated.

"The ingredients and chemicals used in making the explosive would only be revealed once the experts have properly examined the bomb. Their investigation would also shed some light in terms of the damage it would have caused if detonated," he said.

Mhlongo said there have been no arrests since the attack on Thursday.

Police are investigating a case of murder, two cases of attempted murder and one of arson.

The mosque's library was petrol bombed during the first attack.

Mhlongo had said there were elements of extremism in the attack.

'We took what we had and left' 

Neighbouring residents returned home on Monday morning, following an evacuation after the device was found. 

Sarisha Mohumla told News24 that they were having a Mother's Day supper when police came and told them to evacuate their home, which was across the road from the mosque.

"My mom came to visit us, so we were having a family dinner. We just took what we had and left everything as it was. We only took our vehicles and left. We even left the dinner," she said, adding that she recently got married.

Mohumla lives with her husband at his family home.

She said they were very nervous about what would happen at the mosque following the recent incidents there.


Sarisha Mohumla says her family only returned to their home on Monday morning. (Mxolisi Mngadi, News24)

Mohumla said most of the neighbours only came back home on Monday morning. 

"We had to make arrangements to sleep elsewhere. We were very concerned about the items and valuables that we had left behind," she said.

She added that it worried them that the bomb had been discovered just a few days after the mosque was attacked.

Ali Nchiyane, the imam of the mosque, who survived the initial attack told journalists on Monday that the attackers had initially said they wanted to pray when they came to the gate.

Nchiyane was stabbed three times during the attack. He was discharged from hospital on Thursday night. The mosque's caretaker Mohammed Ali was still in a critical condition in hospital.

Abbas Essop, 34, who used to recite the Qur'an at the mosque, was killed in the attack. 

He was buried on Friday.

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