A man fatally stabbed two people and wounded two others in an attack at a mosque near Cape Town on Thursday before being shot dead by police, South African authorities said. The attacker’s motive remained unclear.
“The suspect, believed to be in his thirties and armed with a knife, charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over,” Noloyiso Rwexana, spokeswoman for the police told AFP.
“He ignored the calls and tried to attack police. He was shot dead.”
Local media said the suspect was Somali, but police have not confirmed this.
A man said his father had been sleeping in the Malmesbury mosque when he was killed just ahead of the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Suad Bassa, son of Ismail Bassa, said in an interview with the News24 outlet that the attacker also injured his brother when they confronted him.
“It’s sad, but Allah has taken him away in the place that he loved the most,” Suad Bassa said.
News24 video footage showed the body of the attacker lying in an open area cordoned off by police tape.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), which represents the Muslim community in South Africa, said it was “shocked to the core” over the incident, which came a month after a deadly stabbing at another South African mosque which police said had “elements of extremism” and left an Islamic leader dead.
Way too soon to speculate
The MJC appealed to the community not to jump to conclusions about the attacker’s motives and said its top leadership would travel to the area to assist the community.
It comes a month after an attack at a mosque in the town of Verulam, on the outskirts of the eastern port city of Durban.
Three unidentified assailants killed a mosque leader on May 10 by slitting his throat, also injuring two others. The assailants also set off a Molotov cocktail inside the mosque, and remain at large.
Their motive remains unclear, but a police spokesman said at the time that the attack had “elements of extremism. It shows hatred toward the worshipers.”
About 1.5 percent of South Africa’s 55 million population is Muslim.
Asked if Thursday’s attack was the first of its kind in the region, police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said he couldn’t recall another incident but all possibilities were being investigated.
“It’s way too soon to speculate as to a possible motive — or link with any other incident in the country,” he told the eNCA broadcaster.