The attack on a Sunni mosque in Malmesbury, Cape Town, 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.
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 the 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. 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.