First they prayed, and then they wanted to kill…
That’s according to Ali Nchiyane, the imam of the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, who survived an attack on worshippers on Thursday afternoon.
One person died, while two others – including Nchiyane – were left seriously injured after three men targeted the mosque, setting it alight.
The Hawks are investigating, but no one has been arrested.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Nchiyane, along with other members of the Shia mosque, relived their ordeal.
He said the attackers had said they wanted to pray when they came to the gate.
“They prayed and, after they prayed, they wanted to kill,” said Nchiyane from KwaNdebele.
“They prayed and, after they prayed, they wanted to kill,”
He said he had been told: “I will kill you”.
“He was going to kill me. If I did not fight back, I would have been dead by now. I just hope and pray that the culprits will be apprehended and dealt with justly,” Nchiyane said. He said the only way he was able to survive was because he had martial arts training and he had used his nunchucku sticks to fend off the attackers.
“I was able to fight them and survived,” he said, adding that he believed it was a terrorist attack.
‘Definitely terrorist attacks’
Nchiyane said he was stabbed three times, once in the neck and twice in the chest, and was discharged from hospital on Thursday night.
“These attacks were definitely terrorist attacks. There is no doubt about it. They definitely had a religious motive,” Nchiyane said.
He reiterated that the attackers were not robbers.
“They did not want phones, they did not want laptops, and they did not want money and clothes. They strictly wanted to kill us,”
“They did not want phones, they did not want laptops, and they did not want money and clothes. They strictly wanted to kill us,” he said.
The mosque’s caretaker, Mohammed Ali, was still in a critical condition in hospital.
A third man, Abbas Essop died while on his way to hospital on Thursday.
Essop was across the road from the mosque when the attack occurred. He was attacked when he ran inside to investigate, when he heard screams from inside.
Nchiyane said he felt “unlucky” that he had survived, because of the high status Islam gives to those who give their lives to save others.
“A person who dies protecting others, the same way as brother Abbas [did], is viewed as a victory in Islam. He sacrificed [himself] to protect somebody else. He is a hero and somebody who needs to be celebrated. He ran from across the street to help the brother who was attacked. This is a great fortune for him,” he said.
‘Ideology of hate’
Moulana Aftabi Haider said Mohammed Ali had undergone surgery.
“He is the person who faced the whole situation. 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.
Activities at the mosque have since been suspended, while police carry out their investigation, but they are expected to resume either late on Friday or on Saturday.
Haider said security would, however, be tightened at the mosque.
“We believe that this is the job of a few individuals who are indoctrinated by ideology of hate and discrimination and extremism…”
“We believe that this is the job of a few individuals who are indoctrinated by ideology of hate and discrimination and extremism…” he said.
Haider said the mosque’s Qur’ans had been burnt when the library was petrol bombed.
He said they, as the Shia Muslim community, would like to condemn “this heinous, senseless, inhuman crime against a place of worship and peace”.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said they were investigating two counts of attempted murder, one of murder and one of arson.
He said there were elements of extremism in the attack.