TERROR LINKS IN ATTACKS
But police insist that it is extortion
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.”