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Hawks confirm device found at Verulam mosque is a bomb

DURBAN, 14 May 2018 – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) confirmed on Monday morning that a suspicious device found at the Imam Hussain Mosque in Ottawa, near Verulam, on Sunday night, was a bomb.

Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said: “We have had a brief meeting with the explosives’ unit members who briefed us about the device that they took away yesterday. They confirmed that its mechanism is explosive. But at this stage they haven’t gone thorough analysis on what chemicals it is made of.”

He said the incident was “strange” because the mosque had been thoroughly searched by police on Thursday night after a stabbing incident where one man died and two others were wounded.

The suspicious device was attached to a cell-phone.

“What is strange to us is that the place was thoroughly searched by the police on Thursday night [after the stabbing incident] and on Friday, the whole day the place was searched and no such device was noticed or found,” said Mhlongo.

Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the mosque on Sunday.

Mhlongo said congregants had partially cleaned the mosque on Saturday and found nothing. On Sunday, when cleaning continued, the device was found behind the pulpit.

“We are gathering statements from people who were there and asking how come they didn’t notice it on Saturday, why was it not noticed on Thursday? It creates some confusion and it’s trying to divert our attention from the investigation [in which] we are looking for the three suspects who committed murder and attempted murder,” he said.

The mosque and several nearby residences were evacuated on Sunday night after a “device resembling a bomb” was found inside the mosque.

In a violent attack on Thursday, three men, dressed in traditional attire and armed with knives, stormed the building after gaining entry on the pretext of praying.

They proceeded to stab Moulana Ali Nchinyane and Muhammad Ali.

Abbas Essop, who worked close to the mosque, rushed to the scene to offer assistance. His throat was slit and he later died in hospital. Several rooms in the building, including the library, were set alight after a petrol bomb was hurled into the mosque. The suspects then fled in a vehicle.

No arrests have been made but a manhunt is underway.

Essop’s funeral was held on Friday, with hundreds of mourners and sympathisers in attendance and a strong police presence keeping watch. Nchinyane was discharged from hospital but Ali is still believed to be hospitalised.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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