Picture: Rescue Care

Durban - The African National Congress will never allow freedom of religion and belief, as enshrined in the Constitution, to be trampled on, the party said on Saturday.

"The African National Congress condemns in the strongest terms the ghastly and vicious attack on a mosque in Verulam, Durban [on Thursday afternoon]," ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said.

"This unjustified ambush, which led to one death and two serious injuries, was intended to make this community to live in fear based on their religious beliefs. Witness accounts clearly indicate that the savagery visited on the mosque was well orchestrated at a time when Muslims were in prayer," he said.

Read: WATCH: Three critical in Verulam mosque attack

Moulana tells of knife at throat in #MosqueAttack

‘Wicked’ #MosqueAttack widely condemned as cold-hearted

The South African Constitution guaranteed every citizen the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion. An attack on the mosque or any other place of worship should be strongly condemned, as it sought to undermine this fundamental right.

"We wish to warn the savage, merciless, and barbaric perpetrators of this crime that this country will never bow down to extremism. The Bill of Rights, as enshrined in our Constitution, guarantees freedom of religion and belief for every person to ensure tolerance finds expression in our communities. We will never allow these freedoms to be trampled on.

"We call on the Hawks, who are heading this investigation, to prioritise this brutal crime and act swiftly in bringing these heartless savages to justice. Such extremism must never find expression in this country. We wish Imam Ali Nchinyane and Muhamad Ali a speedy recovery. Our deepest condolences go to the family of the courageous Essop Abbas who paid the ultimate price in service of others," Mabe said.

One man died and two other men were critically injured when three balaclava-clad men wielding knives violently attacked worshippers at the mosque on Thursday afternoon.

KwaZulu-Natal acting police commissioner Maj-Gen Bheki Langa said at the time that a team of investigators had been dispatched to solve the case and bring the perpetrators to book.

Police said that at around 2pm, three unknown men entered the mosque on the Old Main Road in Ottawa, Verulam after the midday prayer. "They allegedly attacked three people and stabbed them.

They further set certain rooms alight and fled in their getaway vehicle. The victims were taken to hospital for medical attention. One of the victims succumbed to his injuries on arrival at the hospital. The motive of the attack is unknown at this stage. Verulam police are investigating a case of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and arson."

African News Agency/ANA