KNEELING FOR HELP: Mohamadek Husein Mohamad speaks about the attacks at his shop that led to death of one person and the missing of his fellow countryman. Picture: HADLEY GREEN

Cape Town - Foreign shop owners in Hopefield have taken refuge in a mosque after a violent robbery was followed by residents descending on 13 foreign-owned spaza shops and beating up their owners.

A shop owner allegedly stabbed an attacker to death after his (the owner’s) cheek and lip were cut off.

The trouble began when three knife-wielding men entered the spaza shop in Hopefield of Azizi Mohamad, 32, his brother Mohamadek Husein Mohamad and their friend, a fellow Somali known only as Abse, just after 8pm on Sunday.

The trio fended off the robbers, but one of the assailants, a man from Hopefield, grabbed Abse outside the shop and cut off his cheek and lip. Abse allegedly stabbed the man to death. Moments later, residents from the Hopefield community stormed the shop, beating up the brothers. Abse fled.

The residents then looted and damaged 13 other foreign-owned spaza shops, prompting more than 30 foreign business owners to seek refuge in the Hopefield mosque.

Most of the owners are shocked about what happened and afraid to go back to their businesses. Some have since gone to Saldanha.

The brothers have lodged a complaint with police.

When the Cape Times visited the mosque on Thursday, the owners - from Somalia, Ethiopia and Bangladesh - were asleep on the floor.

Mohamadek Husein Mohamad, 28, said: “Three men tried to rob us. They all had knives. They tried to break in, but we fought back and overpowered them. Moments later, we heard lots of noise… the three guys had come back with their friends. It was chaotic. There were many of them. They started throwing stones, bottles and they were all carrying knives.”

Abse went outside to try to calm the situation. “As he opened the door, they all grabbed him. They started attacking him. He was bleeding a lot.

His lower lip and cheek were cut off. He was on the ground when he managed to grab a knife and stabbed one of the guys. The guy died instantly.

Then lots of people were coming inside the shop. The two of us escaped, we don’t know where he went.” Azizi Mohamad said Abse had tried hard to “fight back”.

Mohamadek Husein Mohamad said they had struggled to get through to the police. They did not know where Abse had gone.

A fellow Somali, Aden Ahmed Hassen, said he had owned his shop for six years.

“Hopefield people love us. We have never had any problems. A couple of thugs are using the community to set their agendas. What happened is something we all regret.”

Nadiya Baru, a Canadian married to a Somali shop owner, said she had been on holiday visiting her husband. “Homes that took six years to build were gone in five minutes,” she said.

“We are on the brink of being attacked. We do not know who to turn to.

We heard they might attack the mosque also.”

Hopefield resident Margot Alateros-Van Heeroe visited the mosque on Thursday to offer moral support. She assured them that not all the residents were xenophobic.

Police were asked for comment, but this had not been received by deadline.

[email protected]

Cape Times