Camera inside Verulam mosque wasn't working at time of attack – committee chairperson

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)

The only camera inside the recently attacked Shia mosque in Verulam, north of Durban, was not working on the day of the deadly attack.

This was revealed by Azad Seedat, the chairperson of the Imam Hussain Mosque committee, during a press briefing in Durban on Thursday.

The mosque was attacked by three knife-wielding men last Thursday, May 10. One man died, and two others were seriously injured during that attack.

READ: Verulam mosque attack: Caretaker in hiding

The three suspects first prayed at the mosque before they attacked the mosque's caretaker Mohammed Ali and its moulana Ali Nchiyane.

Abbas Essop, 34, who used to recite the Qur'an at the mosque, was killed by the attackers when he ran inside the mosque after he heard screams.

A bomb was also discovered at the mosque on Sunday night, May 13.

Security upgrade

Seedat said the fixed camera faced towards the mosque's pulpit.

"It was not working at the time of the attack as it had been decommissioned for over a year," Seedat said.

Seedat said the camera was mainly used "to broadcast their lectures via social media".

He said CCTV cameras would be installed in the mosque to beef up security.

The mosque already had an electric fence and gate when it was attacked.

Ali opened the gate for the three suspects because they had asked to pray at the mosque.

"With regards to security measures taken by other mosques and churches [around Durban], I wouldn't be privileged to that information. But what I've gathered was that a lot of mosques, with last night being the first night of Ramadan, did request police to have a visible presence outside their places of worship," he said.

Call for public to work with government

The Hawks had said that there were elements of extremism in the attack.

"Religious extremism must be fought by all sides and all faiths because these fringe elements exist in all the faiths whether Muslim, Christian or Hindu," said Seedat.

Seedat said he believed that police would apprehend the suspects.

Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, from the National Interfaith Council of South Africa (Nicsa), said: "Those people who are fighting religious battles in their countries must not transfer their war to South Africa. This is a peaceful and democratic country for all faiths to stay in harmony."

He called on the people of KwaZulu-Natal to work with the government to fight crime.

"Support must be given to police, to reservists, to police volunteers, community safety forums [and] street committees," he said.

Motive unknown

He said they were planning to hold a peace march in Verulam soon.

"When there's a bomb scare at a mosque, then the neighbouring community is also in danger," said Ngcobo.

Hawks spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo told News24 on Thursday that no arrests had been made following the mosque attack but that investigations continue.

He said the motive was also not known.

Two counts of attempted murder, one of murder and one of arson are being investigated, Mhlongo said.

Nicsa and the Muslim community said in a joint statement issued on Thursday afternoon that they applauded government's decision to recall the country's ambassador to Israel after the killing of the 52 people, including six children.

"We support the struggles for a free Palestine and frown at the brutal manner in which Israel apartheid continues to butcher innocent children and women."

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