‘Terror’ kingpins linked to top families
Suspects’ lawyers and families sworn to secrecy
THREE local kingpins and the young children of some prominent Durban families are believed to be among the 19 suspects arrested for the spate of bomb threats in KwaZulu-Natal and the attack at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, which left one person dead.
Some of the city’s top lawyers are representing the accused. However, they declined to comment, saying they had been made to signed a non-disclosure agreement.
The arrests came after multiple raids by the Hawks at several homes, business premises and places of worship in and around the Durban area at the weekend.
During the raids items were confiscated “including a ready-made incendiary device”.
The suspects made their first appearance in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, on Monday, under heavy police guard. They are facing charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, extortion, kidnapping, contravention of the Explosives Act and arson.
The media and family members were banned from the court proceedings after magistrate Irfan Khalil made a ruling that the identity or names of the accused could not be divulged.
Outside the court room, more than 20 relatives of the accused paced the halls, waiting for information.
One man sat silently on a bench with his prayer beads in his hands as another woman wept after finding out she would not be able to see her relative.
The families said the arrests had thrown their lives in turmoil.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said investigations were at a sensitive stage and identity parades needed to be completed before the names of the accused were made public.
Meanwhile, the family of the Durban businessman who was found chained and severely malnourished during the raids by the Hawks, fear for their safety.
The suspects have also been charged for the businessman’s kidnapping.
The man, who was allegedly being held for ransom by his kidnappers, was rescued from a “dungeon-like room” at a place of worship in the city.
A relative, who did not want to be named, said the businessman, a foreigner, was reported missing to the police after he failed to return home.
“We searched for him but were unable to trace his whereabouts. His wife was notified by police that he had been found and taken to hospital for treatment. We have been told that he is not in a good state.”
The relative said he had suffered severe malnutrition after being starved.
“We were also told that he was held captive in chains. For now his wife is the only person who is allowed to see him. There are police guarding his room as well. This is a terrible act. It is inhumane to treat someone this way.”
The relative called for justice.
“He has two children and this ordeal has left them traumatised and they are even questioning their safety in this country.”
The family of Abbas Essop, who was killed in the mosque attack in May, declined to comment on the arrests.
Imam Ali Nchiyane and caretaker Mohammed Ali were injured.
Chairperson of the mosque Azad Seedat said Nchiyane had not returned to the mosque since the attack.
He was under police guard because he was a key witness in this case, said Seedat.
“I am happy about the arrests but one has to wonder what or who is behind the bomb threats.”
Seedat said people were not born to hate.
“There has to be something or someone that is influencing or motivating these people. I don’t want to speculate on whether or not the bomb threats were linked to terrorism, but I believe we need to watch our children and watch who they are interacting with.”
Seedat said no threats had been made to them, nor were there any demands for money. The attack, he said, was just a hateful act of violence.