Durban: Two men, who were accused of a knife attack at a mosque and orchestrating bomb scares in Durban, were among a group nabbed by police in Mayville on Friday.
Law enforcement officials intend to meet the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday to discuss the case involving the five suspects. They were arrested at business premises where 6 050 rounds of ammunition, an AK47, jewellery and counterfeit goods were seized.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said the police were following up on information after a house was broken into in Scottburgh and various items were stolen.
She said the police had a lead that the stolen items were in Mayville. They obtained a search warrant for the premises.
Mbele said ammunition, a Norinco AK-47 rifle, seven cellphones, two magazines, a rifle as well as diamonds and jewellery were seized.
Five suspects were found on the premises. They were arrested during the multidisciplinary intelligence-driven operation, and charged with the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and being in possession of suspected stolen property.
Represented by advocate Niven Rai, the accused, aged between 23 and 47, appeared in the Durban Magistrate's Court on Monday.
Their identities cannot be revealed at this stage as the investigations are ongoing.
However, it emerged that two of the accused were among 12 suspects arrested in October 2018. This was in connection with a knife attack at a mosque north of Durban and orchestrating several bomb scares in Durban. Two of those were at Woolworths stores. The matter was provisionally withdrawn in the Verulam Magistrate's Court last year.
During proceedings on Monday, State prosecutor Calvin Govender told magistrate Vanita Armu that the State was not ready to proceed with a bail application.
He asked her to grant the State seven days to complete its investigations.
Govender said the investigating unit needed to verify the accuseds' addresses and conduct profiling.
He said members of the Organised Crime Unit needed to meet the FBI. Govender did not elaborate on what the meeting would be about.
He said further charges could be added.
However, Rai argued that the State was using delaying tactics to keep the accused in jail.
“I have worked for the State before and I understand that what the State needs to do does not take long. To profile people, you just need a click of the button and you can get your information. The arrests happened four days ago. Surely, during those four days, members of the unit could have gone to each accused's homes to verify their addresses?”
Regarding a meeting with the FBI, Rai said it was not yet known what the meeting would be about. “If there are other charges the accused can be rearrested and charged. They do not have to be in custody for a charge to be added.”
Rai said it was strange that all the accused were charged for being in illegal possession of a firearm.
“I understand with the over 6 000 rounds of ammunition, we can split it to each accused person. But how can five people be accused or possessing one firearm? It makes no sense.”
However, Govender said the State needed the seven-day adjournment and read out a portion of an affidavit by the investigating officer. In the affidavit, the officer said he was investigating a matter that involved murder, arson attacks, a kidnapping, and a spate of bombings and extortion from 2018. Two of the accused were believed to have been involved in that.
He said while the case against the two accused in this recent case, and the 10 other suspects, were provisionally struck off the roll, investigations were ongoing.
The officer said, via his affidavit, that on Friday, the two accused and their co-accused were arrested for being in possession of devices that were capable of turning into a multitude of radio frequencies for mobile telephone numbers.
“The second device, an electronic device capable of jamming radio and mobile phone communications, was also found in the possession of the accused. Those devices have the capability of interfering and damaging central infrastructure (communications).
’’These devices also make it possible for each logging into telecommunications of unsuspecting people, which is an offence in terms of the Interceptions Act number 17 or 2002.
He said the accused were also caught with in excess of 4 000 rounds of ammunition, some of which was believed to be military issue, an illegal assault rifle (an AK47), stolen jewellery, and a large number of items believed to be counterfeit goods.
The officer said once the investigations were complete, he was sure that several of the accused would face prosecution.
Rai questioned why the State needed seven days to conduct its investigations. However, magistrate Armu ruled that the matter be adjourned until this Monday for bail consideration.
She said investigations were not complete and the State was not yet ready to go ahead with the matter.
According to a source, police were following up information on a silver ring that was stolen from the home in Scottburgh when they found the accused and the ammunition. The source said the ring was thereafter advertised on social media and the owner informed the police. The police conducted their own investigation and that led to the raid in Mayville