Who are the suspects, if there were involved, what were their motives, were they part of a third force? These are some of the questions that SA Muslims need answers for, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
Many in the community are breathing a sigh of relief that the 19 suspects allegedly linked to a terror attack on an Avoca mosque were eventually arrested – but South Africans face an anxious wait as the Verulam Magistrate’s Court has imposed a news blackout on their identities because investigations were still at a “sensitive stage”.
The suspects, who were arrested in various parts of the Durban, will appear in court again on Monday (Oct 15).
The veil of secrecy surrounding the proceeding is so tight that the window-panes of the courthouse will remain blocked with plastered paper to keep out photographers when the case resumes on Monday.
But, many in the community are anxious as to what the nationalities of the suspects were, given that some have asked for translators as they cannot understand English.
Given that some of the suspects could possibly be foreign nationals (hence the need for translators) many in the community are asking whisperingly whether the suspects are part of a ‘third force’ – – or enemies of Islam – trying desperately to create divisions amongst South Africa’s close-knit Muslim community.
“I am sure, we will know the answers soon, and we applaud the Intelligence Services for making such dramatic arrests. This violent attack on the Avoca mosque had shocked our community, and we will soon know who the handlers of the suspects are,” said an observer, who did not wish to be named.
The suspects face allegations that they were co-conspirators in the attack of the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, KZN North Coast, where a worshipper, Abbas Essop, was killed, including a spate of bomb scares at departmental stores, including Woolworths.
“Between March and August this year, Durban and surrounding areas were plagued with several incidents of placing and detonating of these devices including widespread hoax callers.”
Several crudely-made devices were planted at Woolworths stores and food markets. Some were triggered and caused minor fires which resulted in a number of stores temporarily closing their doors because of anonymous bomb threats.
The suspects were rounded up by law enforcement teams involving the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, the Forensic Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority.
The suspects all face charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, extortion, kidnapping, contravention of the Explosive Act and arson. They have not yet pleaded to the charges.
Due to the sensitivity of the case, Al Qalam has learnt that the media won’t be allowed into the courtroom when they appear on Monday. The proceedings will again be held in-camera to allow investigators to extract further information from the suspects, and possibly make more arrests.
“Court proceedings will still be conducted in camera and no public or media will be allowed in court,” said Hawks spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
He told journalists that further investigations will be conducted, among other things, on whether the mosque attack was also linked to a spate of bomb scares.
The Hawks also confirmed that a “victim who was found chained and malnourished inside a dungeon in one of the houses” had been rescued. The individual is currently under police guard at an unnamed hospital.