Attackers slit throats of three worshippers at mosque in South Africa

Emergency services attend to the three injured victims

A group of men armed with knives and a petrol bomb slit the throats of two worshippers and an Imam at a mosque on the Old Main Road in Ottawa the KwaZulu-Natal province on Thursday (10 May).

Imam Ali Nchinyane, who had heard noises from inside the mosque, sustained stab wounds but has now been discharged from hospital.

Prem Balram, spokesman for the Reaction Unit South Africa security company, said he had arrived at the mosque to find two victims covered in blood lying in the forecourt of the mosque.

Chairman of Parliament's portfolio committee on police Francois Beukman said the alleged attack was shocking and that the South African Police Service should prioritise the investigation. He and a second victim are in a stable condition in hospital.

Police spokeswoman Capt Nqobile Gwala said a docket had been registered at the Verulam police station but Hawks investigators would take over the investigation on Friday.

The unknown attackers set rooms in the mosque alight before fleeing in a vehicle, police report.

"He is the caretaker", he said, explaining that Ali was the one who had opened the gate for the attackers after they said they wanted to pray.

The incident appeared to be unprecedented in South Africa, where about 1.5 percent of the country's 55 million population is Muslim.

A Sunni man who attended the funeral told ANA that he had never known there were that many Shia worshippers in the area until he saw the mourners.

The attack occurred days before the start of the holy month of Ramadaan.

He said he had been told: "I will kill you".

"We believe that this is the job of a few individuals who are indoctrinated by ideology of hate and discrimination and extremism." he said. "Speculation about the motive is quite unsafe at this point". "An attack on the mosque, or any other place of worship, must be strongly condemned as it seeks to undermine this fundamental right".

The three attackers were still at large. "We want our communities to live in harmony, practising their religions without fear".

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