Update: Hawks Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo has confirmed on Monday morning that the device was indeed an explosive mechanism.
After emerging from a meeting with members of the explosives unit on Monday in the aftermath of the bomb scare, Mhlongo said experts would continue analyzing the elements of the explosive, including the chemicals within.
* The story was updated to include this latest development
DURBAN - The suspicious device found at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, near Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal has been removed from the premises, and a bomb squad has confirmed that the device was an explosive that could have threatened the lives of worshipers and residents.
Hawks spokesperson, Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo, confirmed to the Sunday Tribune on Monday morning that the explosive device was removed after a grueling investigation at the mosque which lasted five hours.
A source close to the investigation said yesterday that the bomb squad believed the device was explosive.
But Mhlongo said intelligence officials were also discussing security measures.
The apparent #MosqueBomb threat came in the wake of the brutal attack on Thursday by three armed men at the same mosque which claimed the life of Abbas Essop, 35.
Essop’s throat was said to have been a slit by the attackers who also harmed two others including a Moulana (Islamic priest).
At the #MosqueBomb scene on Sunday night, Mhlongo said it was strange for the bomb to have been found merely hours after South African Police Minister, Bheki Cele, visited the area on Sunday morning, in the wake of the attack, and the Mosque had been “cleared” on Friday.
Hawks Capt Simphiwe Mhlongo confirmed a suspicious device was found at the Mosque this evening.
“It’s strange that this comes after the Police Minister visited the scene, and the area was cleared on Friday” he said.#MosqueBomb #MosqueAttack @SundayTribuneSA @IOL @TheMercurySA pic.twitter.com/yjgD2m6vxX
Reaction Unit South Africa, a private security company, was the first to report to the scene at 7pm when they received a call about a suspicious device.
RUSA chief, Prem Balram, said the device, made up of a pipe and wires linked to a Nokia phone, was found at the pulpit close to where the Imam (preacher) would sit.
How the #MosqueBomb was found:
Watch: Prem Balram of RUSA says the “suspicious device” believed to be a #mosquebomb was found under the Moulana’s chair in the wake of the @SAPoliceService Min Bheki Cele visit to the area#MosqueAttack @SundayTribuneSA @IOL @TheMercurySA pic.twitter.com/WcwPnMfptY
By 7pm the area had been cordoned off and residents living nearby the mosque were evacuated from their homes. They only returned home by midnight after the bomb squad’s go ahead.
Hungry stomachs paired with the cold snap led to tensions rising between neighbours.
There’s a tense stand-off between residents right now. Some are standing in solidarity while others are concerned about when they will get to return home. Watch this: @SundayTribuneSA @TheMercurySA @IOL #MosqueBomb #MosqueAttack pic.twitter.com/Eg6jRBfPh2
The Hawks and intelligence officials, including the State Security Agency, have been investigating the circumstances around the Thursday’s attack, and the Hawks were meeting on Monday morning to discuss #MosqueBomb incident.
The Imam Hussein Mosque is one of three Shi’a mosques in South Africa.
The Shi’a community is a sect within the Muslim community that has previously received hateful remarks about their practices, according to a worshipper at the mosque, Moobaruk Ally.
Watch: Moobarak Ally, a member of the Imam Hussein Mosque says the Shi’a community is a small Muslim community that’s experienced hate speech. #MosqueAttack #MosqueBomb @SundayTribuneSA @IOL @TheMercurySA pic.twitter.com/RWZUkG1KF8
Also read: Shia hate 'led to #MosqueAttack'