One dead, two critical after attack at Verulam mosque

2018-05-11 15:16

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A Worshipper has died from having his throat slit and two others were stabbed during an attack in a mosque in Verulam, outside Durban, yesterday afternoon.

One was stabbed in the abdomen and another in the groin and leg. Assailants set part of the mosque on fire, by allegedly tossing a petrol bomb, before fleeing.

One stabbing victim was the moulana at the Imam Hussain Mosque in Ottawa, Verulam. The other was a caretaker of the mosque, who is Malawian.

The mosque’s chairperson, Shanshah Ali, feared the incident was a “terror attack” founded on clashing religious ideologies within Islam.

He told The Witness he believed the attackers were opposed to Shia Islam, which the mosque practises.

“They believe we are not Muslim and we are not right,” he said.

Muslims primarily fall under the Shia and Sunni branches of the faith. Sunnis are the vast majority and there is violent tension between the two in some parts of the world, such as Iraq.

Afzal Mitha, who was among the first on the scene, told News24 the moulana jumped out of a second floor window after he was stabbed. “He told us that the attackers said the mosque was brainwashing people,” said Mitha.

Ali said he was travelling back from overseas during the time of the attack, but heard about it from colleagues.

“The moulana was in his room, they took him out and stabbed him. This guy they killed was a young guy with a small child. He was innocent. How can someone kill a decent guy?”

He said the mosque will assess whether to increase security.

“This must be a terrorist attack. They [the assailants] didn’t take money, they didn’t rob us. What else could it be? They wanted to show other worshippers that this is what will happen to you if you worship here.”

A video was widely circulated on social media, showing the three victims being attended to by paramedics. Two are drenched in blood. Officers can be heard trying to track down fleeing suspects.

It is believed that the attack was carried out by three Egyptian nationals wearing half balaclavas, who managed to flee in a white Hyundai Getz with no registration plates.

Prem Balram, a spokesperson for Reaction Unit South Africa, said one man died on his way to hospital.

He said his officers first found two victims bleeding profusely and called paramedics. They then saw the smoke, and tried to douse the flames. Police said the mosque’s kitchen and library were set alight.

“A third victim was found inside the building bleeding from a wound to his throat. A knife was found beside the victim.”

Balram said witnesses told officers that three “Egyptian males armed with knives and guns” attacked the mosque.

The attack has sent shockwaves through the local Muslim community, who condemned the incident and labelled it the worst attack on any South African mosque in history.

“I have no clue what happened or why,” said Dr Faisal Suliman, chairperson of the SA Muslim Network. “Obviously the law must take its course and the reasons will be ascertained that way. It is hard to speculate on what happened because there was no trouble that I had heard of. I can’t speculate.”

Local Islamic teacher Mohamed Saeed said: “This is the first time I have heard of such a serious attack at a South African mosque.”

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has condemned the attack.

“This act — so violent and repulsive of nature — is unprecedented in South African history,” it said in a statement, adding that South Africa’s “religious, cultural and ethnic diversity and tolerance are what make it so unique as a country” and should be preserved “from all forms of threats”.

“This came out of nowhere. We would need more information to understand how or why this happened. It is unacceptable, and justice must take its course,” the MJC said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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