On Sunday night, police cordoned off the area and evacuated residents on the street after the “bomb” - a white plastic tube with wires connected to a cellphone - was found soon after the 6pm prayer.
Durban - Less than four days after the bloody attack at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, Verulam and just hours after Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the scene, a device believed to be a bomb was found under a pulpit in the mosque.

On Sunday night, police cordoned off the area and evacuated residents on the street after the “bomb” - a white plastic tube with wires connected to a cellphone - was found soon after the 6pm prayer.

The chairman of the mosque, Azaad Seedat, confirmed the ­device had been discovered under the minbar (pulpit).

“There were guys cleaning up inside the mosque. They found the device under the minbar and put it outside,” Seedat said.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that “a device” had been found at the mosque.

The police’s Explosives Unit were at the scene for more than seven hours trying to establish the authenticity of the device, before it was removed from the scene.

After final inspections, residents were allowed to return home.

The worried residents speculated over the origins of the “bomb” as police and sniffer dogs combed the area. They called for calm and religious tolerance in the area.

Farouk Essop, whose brother Abbas was killed in last week’s ­attack, said he was standing in close proximity to the mosque, and had been instructed by police to switch off his cellphone.

Andisha Maharaj, another local resident, who rushed to the mosque after news of the “bomb” got out, described the situation as very tense.

She said residents were concerned about the latest development.

“We are all outside the mosque. It is still very tense because we have not heard from authorities.

“Those in close proximity to the mosque have been told to vacate their houses and have been moved to safer areas. We are more worried than we were on Thursday when the attackers struck. This is on ­another level now,” she said.

The spokesperson of the Shia community in South Africa, Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider, said their mosques remained on high alert.

Also read: Hawks confirm suspicious device found at Imam Hussein Mosque

The family of Abbas Essop, the Verulam man who died after his throat was slit during Thursday’s attack at the mosque, hailed him as a hero, saying he died for justice.

Fellow congregants believe the attack was carried out by members of an opposing sect in the Islamic faith.

During Cele’s visit to the mosque earlier in the day, one of Essop’s shoes lay next to the fridge inside the mosque. Dried blood was evident on the floor.

His widow Sakina told Cele during his visit to the family on Sunday that she and her two young children were proud of Abbas because he was a hero.

“Without saying a word he has created such an impact and he has brought all of us together. I am so proud of him, and my daughters know that he is a hero. I am never going to forget him,” Sakina said.

She added that it was a consolation to her and her young daughters, aged one and four, that he had died doing good. Abbas had rushed to the mosque to help out after he heard a commotion.

“The best part is it happened the way he would have wanted. He died the way he lived,” she said.

Consoling the widow, Cele said: “Tell them (her daughters) I lost my mother at the age of nine months, but I grew up, so it happens.”

The family urged Cele not only to find the perpetrators but also to make sure the masterminds behind the raid were brought to book.

Cele said he was encouraged by the strength shown by the family.

“This kind of thing is really devastating.

“But ours as the SAPS is not to come and mourn, but to find ­answers as to what happened and who did it. That is what we are working towards,” Cele said.

Police sources said they were closing in on the attackers.

The Mercury