Mosque attack: Relative of slain worshipper says it was heartbreaking to watch him fight for his life

2018-05-11 21:46
Police cordoned off the area around the mosque in Verulam shortly after the attack. (Mxolisi Mngadi/News24)

Police cordoned off the area around the mosque in Verulam shortly after the attack. (Mxolisi Mngadi/News24)

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A relative of Abbas Essop, who died shortly after an attack at a mosque in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, says it was heartbreaking to witness Essop fight for his life after his throat was slit.

"It was very heartbreaking to witness his death at this mosque," said the relative, who asked not to be named for "security reasons".

The relative said he was one of the people who assisted in trying to revive Essop.

"He was losing a lot of his blood and I was helping paramedics in their efforts to stop the blood," he told News24 at Essop's funeral at the mosque on Friday evening.

Essop used to recite the Qur'an at the mosque, where he died as he tried to help others, the relative said.

The 34-year-old was one of three people who were stabbed at the Imam Hussain Mosque on Old Main Road in Ottawa, Verulam when three knife-wielding men attacked the place of worship.

He was across the road and rushed over, after hearing screams for help coming from inside the mosque, the relative said. But the attackers stabbed him too.

"He was one of the great pillars of our community. He used to recite the Qur'an on Thursday in the mosque. Everyone used to come and listen to him," said the relative.

The relative said Essop was a local mechanic who specialised in servicing Mercedes Benz vehicles.

He had a workshop across the road from the mosque.

"He used to help most of the people around the community a lot. He serviced their cars and he motivated students and children to do better, uplifting the community in a sense," said the relative.

He said he and others felt as though they were targets and declined to divulge their identities to News24.

Essop had a twin brother, the relative revealed.

"He has two children (younger than five) and has a wife from Tanzania," he said.

He added that, besides his twin, Essop had about six other siblings.

Ali Nchiyane, the imam of the mosque who survived the attack, told journalists earlier on Friday that the attackers said they wanted to pray when they arrived at the gate.

"They prayed and after they prayed, they wanted to kill," said Nchiyane.

He said he had been told: "I will kill you".

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.

Nchiyane said in Islam, those who give their lives to save others received a high status.

"A person who dies protecting others, the same way as brother Abbas [did], is viewed as a victory in Islam. He sacrificed his own self to protect somebody else. He is a hero and somebody who needs to be celebrated. He ran from across the street to help the brother who was attacked. This is a great fortune for him," he said.

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

Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said they were investigating two counts of attempted murder, one of murder and one of arson.

Several worshippers, including Nchiyane, have said they are not ruling out elements of extremism in the attack.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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