TER­ROR LINKS IN AT­TACKS

But po­lice in­sist that it is ex­tor­tion

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - NKU­L­ULEKO NENE AND KARINDA JAGMOHUN

PO­LICE seem to have made a break­through in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a mosque at­tack in Veru­lam and the dis­cov­ery of sev­eral ex­plo­sive de­vices in Dur­ban.

But they have thrown a veil of se­crecy around it. In May the Imam Hus­sein Mosque in Veru­lam was at­tacked by three men.

They slit the throats of two men and stabbed a third. One per­son died.

The at­tack­ers set a part of the mosque on fire be­fore they fled.

Four days later, an ex­plo­sive de­vice was found in the mosque.

The na­ture of the at­tacks at the Shia place of wor­ship (one of only three in the coun­try) re­sulted in spec­u­la­tion that the mo­tive was sec­tar­ian.

There­after, sev­eral such de­vices were found at re­tail stores in Dur­ban.

Most were dis­cov­ered at Wool­worths stores, prompt­ing the re­tailer to be­gin search­ing cus­tomers.

How­ever, there were no in­ci­dents re­ported af­ter Au­gust.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, at a hastily ar­ranged press con­fer­ence, Min­is­ter of Po­lice Bheki Cele an­nounced that three sus­pects were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with plac­ing and det­o­nat­ing these de­vices. He said there was a link be­tween the mosque at­tack and the ex­plo­sive de­vices.

“Ar­rested sus­pects are likely to face charges com­pris­ing of mur­der, con­tra­ven­tion of the Ex­plo­sive Act and ar­son, among oth­ers” he said.

“Up to this point, the team has es­tab­lished ex­tor­tion as the most likely mo­tive for these in­ci­dents.

“How­ever, as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­gresses we can­not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of other mo­tives.”

The Sun­day Tri­bune es­tab­lished that while Cele was talk­ing, the po­lice were raid­ing three homes linked to the sus­pects. The team in­cluded mem­bers from the Hawks, the Na­tional In­ter­ven­tion Unit and the bomb squad.

Two of the houses were si­t­u­ated in Reser­voir Hills and the third in the nearby sub­urb of Par­lock.

Three sources, all in­de­pen­dent of each other, told this news­pa­per that at one of the Reser­voir Hills homes, the po­lice con­fis­cated a flag or flags linked to the so-called Is­lamic State. Most Mus­lims don’t sup­port the group.

One of the sources said: “I saw a po­lice­man fetch a black flag from the garage. It was sim­i­lar to the flag I have seen on TV of the Is­lamic State. It was black and had white Ara­bic writ­ing.”

It is also be­lieved the po­lice res­cued a per­son from one of the homes.

Wit­nesses claimed an am­bu­lance was sum­moned and the per­son was taken to hospi­tal.

How­ever, those close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­fused to com­ment.

The Sun­day Tri­bune was re­li­ably in­formed that when the three sus­pects ap­pear in court to­mor­row, the State will bring an ap­pli­ca­tion for the mat­ter to be heard in cam­era.

Ac­cord­ing to crim­i­nal lawyer, Roy Singh, who is not in­volved in this mat­ter, the State had brought such ap­pli­ca­tions in the past when sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion was at stake.

Prais­ing the po­lice, Cele said: “I want to com­mend and con­grat­u­late the mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team for the ster­ling work they have done thus far. I have been made aware that this has not been an easy in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How­ever the team pre­vailed.”

KZN Jamiatul Ulama spokesper­son Moulana Ab­dul­lah Khan said they were happy to hear ar­rests were made. “We hope that if these are the sus­pects, they are brought to book. Only the law will tell,” he said.

Azad See­dat, founder of Imam Hus­sein Mosque, said: “Days af­ter the first at­tack, the pres­i­dent vis­ited us and as­sured us they were do­ing their best to ar­rest the sus­pects. And months later the sus­pects are be­ing brought to book. “We are pleased with SAPS’ work.” How­ever, he dis­missed claims the at­tacks on the mosque were linked to ex­tor­tion.

“This was a sec­tar­ian at­tack. It was an at­tack against us, and an in­tol­er­ance towards the Shia com­mu­nity. This was sim­ply a hate crime.”

Kirsten Hewett, Wool­worths spokesper­son, said: “We were not asked for money and have worked closely with au­thor­i­ties through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

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