‘Peaceful community’ shaken by attacks at mosque

2018-05-15 16:31
Members of the Hawks were at the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, outside Durban, on Monday morning. Police found an explosive device at the mosque on Sunday morning.

Members of the Hawks were at the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, outside Durban, on Monday morning. Police found an explosive device at the mosque on Sunday morning. (Kerushun Pillay)

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The attacks on the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, outside Durban, have sent shivers down the spines of members of the usually “peaceful and harmonious” neighbouring community.

The community is still recovering from the trauma of two incidents at the mosque last Thursday, when armed men stabbed and injured two workers (the moulana and a caretaker) and killed worshipper Abbas Essop by slitting his throat.

On Sunday night residents were evacuated from homes when police discovered an explosive device, wired up to a cell phone, inside the mosque.

The enormity of the incidents came as a huge shock to the community, who say they had not noticed so much as a verbal fracas at the mosque in the past.

The Hawks on Monday expressed “extreme worry” at the discovery of the device, which was said to contain “highly flammable substances”. They have not yet established where it could have come from.

Members of the Hawks were at the mosque on Monday morning, obtaining statements from those present during Sunday’s incident.

The front door of the mosque has been secured with a thick chain. The Imam Hussain’s hierarchy declined to speak, saying police advised them not to speak to media.

The mosque has been adamant that the attacks were due to an ideological clash within Islam.

The mosque preaches the Shia brand of Islam, and it believes the attackers are Sunni Muslims.

Danny Sirkar, who lives next door to the mosque, said his family has been traumatised by the events of the past few days.

“I have small grandchildren. Since Thursday they have been very scared so we sent them to stay at a relative’s house.”

Sirkar has lived on the same road for 66 years, and said he had never expected something like this to happen.

“Every time we hear a police siren we panic.”

Sarisha Mohunlal, who lives across the street from the mosque, said: “We are scared to the point of being sick. The fact that they actually found a bomb is shocking.”

Abidi Muhammed, a Pakistani national who is a cashier at a scrap shop near the mosque and is a Shia Muslim, said he had heard of minor threats to the mosque in the past, but it was generally peaceful.

KwaZulu-Natal Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo told The Witness police had thoroughly searched the mosque on Thursday and Friday and found no trace of the explosive device at that time.

He said congregants then cleaned the mosque on Saturday and found nothing.

The device was discovered on Sunday night under the moulana’s chair by a worshipper as people prepared for prayers.

Mhlongo would not rule out possible terrorism, and said the Hawks are “looking at all angles”.

“But the worrying factor is the suspicious device — how did it end up there, since it was not seen those other days.”

He urged the community not to “point fingers” at each other, and rather let investigations reveal the root of the incidents.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Judicial Council on Monday reiterated its desire to await the outcomes of the investigation or for a motive to emerge before entertaining talk of possible terrorism.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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