Mosque arrests climb to 18

2018-10-08 13:44
A file picture of the mosque in Verulam where three people had their throats slit earlier this year.

A file picture of the mosque in Verulam where three people had their throats slit earlier this year. (Reaction Unit SA )

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Police have rounded up a total of 18 people suspected of the fatal attack on the Verulam mosque and subsequent bomb scares at shopping malls. All are expected to appear in court on Monday morning. 

The arrests took place in the Durban area, and more are on the cards. Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told The Witness on Sunday that the suspects face charges of murder, attempted murder, extortion and violating the Explosives Act. More charges are expected to be added and more arrests might take place, he said.

Mulaudzi was very guarded about the information he divulged, saying that investigations were of a very sensitive nature. He would not disclose the ages of the suspects or where they lived.

He said they all might not be appearing in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court because they were arrested in different areas in Durban. Jurisdiction will have to be considered in deciding where they are going to appear, he said.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed that the state will make an application for proceedings to take place in camera. If granted, this means that the public and the media will not be allowed in court when the suspects appear. It also means their names and photos will not be allowed to be made public.

“This is because of the sensitive nature of the proceedings. The application is so that outstanding investigations can still be conducted, including the possibility of an identification parade,” he said.

Mfaku added it was not uncommon for the state to make this type of application.

The Muslim Judicial Council (SA) said in a statement it was pleased to hear about the arrests. The attack on the mosque took place when the Muslim community was in the sacred month of Ramadaan (fasting).

The MJCSA said it had been on edge since the incident because it seemed that authorities were not making headway in their investigations.

It said it was thankful to all those who were responsible for making the arrests and called for the community to respect the “rule of law and allow justice to take its course”.

“We are confident that the alleged perpetrators, if found guilty, will face the full extent and might of the law,” it said.

A media report on Sunday said that police had raided the houses of three suspects, two in Reservoir Hills and another in Parlock. At one of the Reservoir Hills homes, police confiscated a flag or flags linked to the so-called Islamic State.

It was further reported that a person was rescued from one of the homes and had to be taken to hospital.

On Friday, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced the breakthrough, but mentioned only that three “main targets” had been arrested in connection with the placing and detonating of explosive devices. He said they have also been linked to the Verulam mosque attack. “Between March and August this year, Durban and surrounding areas were plagued with several incidents of placing and detonating of these devices,” said Cele.

In July, hoax callers ran rampant, making three hoax bomb threats in one day at one point. The Phoenix police station, the Cornubia Mall and the Commercial City Building had to be evacuated after the threats.

Also in July, an explosive device was found at a Woolworths store in the Durban CBD, while another device was found in the Southgate Mall in Johannesburg in August.

“In a separate incident that was linked to some [incidents] of the placing of devices, three men were attacked in May this year at a mosque in Verulam, which left one person dead and two others critically wounded.”

Following the mosque attack, a team comprising Crime Intelligence, the Hawks, forensic experts and the NPA was tasked to investigate these incidents, the minister said.

“Up to this point the team has established extortion as the most likely motive for these incidents. However, as the investigation progresses we cannot rule out the possibility of other motives,” he said.

TIMELINE

May 10: The Imam Hussein Mosque in Verulam is attacked by three men and part of the mosque is set alight. Three men have their throats slit. One person dies.

May 14: An explosive device is found at the mosque.

July 1 to July 6: Suspicious devices are found at Woolworths stores, one in Gateway and one at the Pavilion Shopping Centre.

July 7: A suspicious device is found in a Woolworths store at Durban’s Gateway Mall.

July 8: Two explosive devices, located under two separate vehicles, are found in Berea, Durban.

July 19: An explosive device is found at a Woolworths store in the Durban CBD. The device is defused by the explosives unit. This brings the total number of incidents to 10.

August-present: No incidents reported to police in KZN.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  mosque attack

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