File photo: Police investigators collect evidence at a mosque where three men were attacked in Ottawa, South Africa, May 10, 2018.
(photo credit: ROGAN WARD / REUTERS)
Two people were killed and another two injured in a mosque attack in Malmesbury, a town near Cape Town, during the early hours of Thursday morning.
According to local police, a Somalian national wielding a knife attempted to behead one of his victims during the attack and stabbed several other people during his rampage.
“Malmesbury Police were called out to a local mosque and found two people stabbed to death and several injured,” the police said in a statement. “The suspect‚ believed to be in his thirties and armed with a knife, was still on the scene and charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over. He ignored the calls and tried to attack police. He was shot and killed in the process. His death will be investigated by IPID.
“Of the two deceased who were attacked and killed, one is a Somalian... Intelligence is still on the scene investigating,” the statement added.
The man allegedly carried out the attack just before morning prayers were about to begin. Reports said he stayed throughout the night to pray in the Sunni mosque.
One man had his throat slit during the attack, a relative of the victim told a local news station.
“We don’t know anything. There is no information, there is no motive, there’s nothing like that,” South Africa’s News24 reported police as saying. “This guy was not in a hurry – he was very calm – he did not run, he walked away. He had a big Rambo knife.”
A neighborhood safety activist called the knife attack an “act of terrorism.”
Two other victims are in the hospital in serious condition after they sustained several stab wounds.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies issued a statement condemning “the heinous act of violence that took place in the Malmesbury mosque.... There can be no justification whatsoever for the loss of life at a place of worship in this manner. We pray for the two victims and their families, and call on all communities to redouble efforts to defeat the evils of hate for good. Mosques, churches, temples, synagogues and all places of worship are sacrosanct and must be places of safety.”
South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council said it was “shocked to its core to learn of a brutal attack on the Malmesbury Masjied [mosque near] Cape Town.... We can confirm that two people have been killed whilst in I’tikaaf [staying in the mosque for contemplation and prayer] and another regular musallee [prayer leader] of the Masjied was injured. We do not have any further details as yet but we urge the community not to jump to any conclusions until clarity can be given.”
The attack comes just a month after a mosque in Durban was attacked, which left one person dead and two injured. In that attack on a Shi’a mosque, the building’s library was petrol bombed and days later an explosive device was found on the premises.
At this stage, it’s believed that the two mosque attacks are not connected.Reuters contributed to this report.