Pall bearers carry Shaheed Abbas Essop’s body at his funeral. He was slain in the horrific attack on a mosque in Verulam. 
Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/ African News Agency (ANA)
Muslim leaders across Gauteng have called for calm as police hunt for a group that left one man dead and two others injured in a blood-curdling attack on a Shia mosque in Verulam, near Durban.

Despite this shock first attack of its kind in South Africa, most mosques across Gauteng hadn’t increased security during Friday prayers yesterday.

“We haven’t done so, because we need to find out what the motive was for the attack,” said moulana Ebrahim Bham, of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, yesterday.

Last night Abbas Essop was buried, as leaders of the mosque said that the attack had all the hallmarks of an Islamic State (Isis) attack.

They believed the mosque was targeted because it was a Shia place of worship, and this exposed the tensions between Shia and Sunni population.

On Thursday, the three men stormed the mosque, slitting Essop’s throat and butchering two other worshippers just after midday prayers. They also petrol-bombed the mosque before fleeing.

Verulam moulana Ali Nchinyane recalled the moment of the horrifying attack when the men walked into the Iman Hussein mosque at Ottawa. “I fought for my life. I did not want to die.”

Mourners came from as far as London as well as all corners of South Africa to pay their respects to Essop, a mechanic, father-of-two and member of the congregation, a block away from his home.

Another victim of the attack, mosque official Muhammed Ali, was recovering in the intensive care unit at Addington Hospital as the funeral ceremony for Essop took place.

According to reports, local Islamic leader Aftab Haider said that the mosque and the Shia community had received threats before.

This hatred has even spilt over on to the internet where a number of local anti-Shia websites have sprung up. The Shia Muslims are a minority in South Africa.

One Shia community in Edenvale yesterday was considering beefing up its security following the attack.

Worshippers at the Shia Babul Llm Islamic Centre would be meeting soon to see what precautions they could take to protect the 50-odd families that gather at the mosque. Last year, they were forced to improve security at the mosque, after six men came to the centre wanting to worship. They were behaving oddly, Mesum Hussain, a member of the centre’s management, explained.

“They told us this was the first time that they had been to the mosque, but they knew were everything was,” said Hussain. The men were asked to leave.

“We have to do something, if it happened in Durban, it can happen in any place,” Hussain said.

By last night, the Hawks had not made any arrests, nor revealed a possible motive for the attack. The unit is investigating a count of murder, two of attempted murder and a case of arson.

Terror experts were monitoring social media platforms preferred by Isis. It was usual, said the director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, Jasmine Opperman, for Isis to claim responsibility for such an attack. She had seen social media posts from what she called the Fanboys, supporters of Isis, who were talking about the Durban incident.

“They are saying that a Shia general was killed there,” she said, emphasising that this was not official confirmation by Isis.