Mosque at­tacks link probed

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Do­minic Adriaanse and Bheki Mban­jwa

PO­LICE are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether there are any links be­tween a Western Cape mosque at­tack yes­ter­day in which three peo­ple in­clud­ing the at­tacker were killed, and an at­tack at a Dur­ban mosque last month.

The at­tack on a Sunni mosque in Malmes­bury, Cape Town, yes­ter­day on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr has left the Mus­lim com­mu­nity reel­ing.

Last month Ab­bas Es­sop, 34, died after his throat was cut in the at­tack at a Veru­lam Shia mosque. The moulana and a care­taker were also at­tacked and in­jured.

Three days later a home-made ex­plo­sive de­vice was dis­cov­ered at the mosque.

Yes­ter­day, the son of one of the men killed in the Malmes­bury mosque at­tack de­scribed how he fought the knife-wield­ing as­sailant who at­tacked wor­ship­pers.

The at­tacker was shot and killed by the po­lice after re­sist­ing ar­rest and al­legedly at­tack­ing an of­fi­cer. Two peo­ple, in­clud­ing the mosque’s imam, were in­jured. The po­lice’s bomb dis­posal unit was called to check the con­tents of a bag left by the as­sailant.

Po­lice com­mis­sioner Gen­eral Khehla Si­tole said both the Veru­lam and the Malmes­bury mosque at­tacks may “in­volve mat­ters which may be of na­tional se­cu­rity”.

He said the Hawks had been as­signed to in­ves­ti­gate both cases. He said there were sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the in­ci­dents, but it was still too early to say whether there was any link be­tween the two.

“We needed to be re­spon­sive to our com­mu­ni­ties and also demon­strate that those Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties are as im­por­tant as other com­mu­ni­ties in terms of polic­ing,” he said.

Si­tole ad­mit­ted that in the Dur­ban case there had been “gaps” in terms of up­dat­ing the fam­i­lies and the com­plainants.

“At the present moment we are bring­ing the fam­ily on board.”

In yes­ter­day’s at­tack Faizal Bassa’s fa­ther, Is­maiel Ah­mad Bassa, 72, was one of the wor­ship­pers in­side the mosque next to their home in Ne­rina Street, per­form­ing I’tikaaf (seclu­sion in the mosque) when a So­mali at­tacked and killed him in his sleep.

The 23-year-old said the at­tack oc­curred just after 3am when he was wo­ken to screams of imam calling for help.

“I rushed out be­cause my fa­ther was in­side. When I got there I saw him in­side, just ly­ing there.

“This man at­tacked me and as we fought he stabbed me in the face, un­der my left eye as I blocked, and as I turned he stabbed me in the back.”

His mother, Zainab Bassa, said the as­sailant first at­tacked her hus­band be­fore turn­ing to an­other wor­ship­per, a So­mali, Ziyaad Hedick.

“I am shocked but try­ing to stay strong as I don’t want to see any­body slaugh­tered in a mosque. the My hus­band was a very strong per­son, and said he could stand for the full 20 raka’t of Tarawih salaah (spir­i­tual act of pray­ing).”

Com­mu­nity ac­tivist and fam­ily rel­a­tive Im­ran Mukadam said: “This at­tack comes at the end of Ra­madaan, while the at­tack on the Shia sect Imam Hus­sain Mosque in Veru­lam, Dur­ban, came at the start.

“While this ap­pears to be an at­tempt to cause di­vi­sion within the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, as we see in other parts of the world, more than ever we are calling for unity and peace within our com­mu­nity,” he said.

The Mus­lim Ju­di­cial Coun­cil (MJC) vis­ited the fam­ily to con­vey their con­do­lences.

MJC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Shaykh Is­gak Taliep said that based on the in­for­ma­tion they had re­ceived, the as­sailant looked “very dis­turbed and in­tent on cre­at­ing mis­chief ”.

“He at­tacked the imam first and then mur­dered the mem­bers who came to his de­fence. After he es­caped, some con­gre­gants gave chase be­fore po­lice at­tempted to ap­pre­hend him. In a hos­tile at­tack on the po­lice, he was killed,” he said.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has urged the public to al­low the author­i­ties to com­plete their in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the in­ci­dent.

Malmes­bury po­lice spokesper­son Jonathan Fi­lan­der said po­lice ar­rived just after 3am when the sus­pect was al­ready out­side the mosque.

“When of­fi­cers ar­rived they found that two male per­sons were in­jured and two males dead from their in­juries. The sus­pect re­sisted ar­rest and at­tempted to get away, after which po­lice cor­nered him on a piece of land not far from the mosque.

‘‘The sus­pect at­tacked the of­fi­cers, who first used rub­ber bul­lets to im­mo­bilise him.

‘How­ever, he con­tin­ued to at­tack, and an of­fi­cer shot him with a 9mm pis­tol.”

The In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate (Ipid) said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the killing of the sus­pect.

The chair­per­son of the Imam Hus­sain mosque in Veru­lam, Azad See­dat, yes­ter­day con­demned the at­tack on the Malmes­bury mosque. “We con­demn the at­tack in Cape Town.

“We do not know much about what hap­pened there as we are still wait­ing for a re­port,” said See­dat.

He added that while the mosque had beefed up se­cu­rity, it was dif­fi­cult to plan against at­tacks such as the Malmes­bury one.

“How do you stop such peo­ple? These are lu­natics,” See­dat said. Re­pair work is still be­ing un­der­taken at the Veru­lam mosque, with dam­age caused dur­ing the at­tack said to be more than R1 mil­lion.

PIC­TURE: AP/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

The scene in­side the Malmes­bury mosque yes­ter­day. Two wor­ship­pers were killed in the at­tack early yes­ter­day by a So­mali knife­man who was sub­se­quently shot dead.

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