NATIONAL NEWS - Claims of terrorism and religious factionalism have run rife since yesterday’s attack by a Somalian man on a Malmesbury mosque, but according to a non-governmental organisation familiar with the community, the motive may have been much less sinister.
Faith-based human rights group Cage Africa said it stood by community members’ claims that the attacker was mentally ill.
Two worshippers died from stab wounds and several others were injured when a man attacked them in the early morning.
According to Western Cape South African Police Service spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa, the attacker was killed in a standoff with police.
“The suspect, believed to be in his 30s and armed with a knife, was still at the scene and charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over.
“He ignored that and tried to attack them. He was shot and killed in the process. His death will be investigated by the Independent Investigative Police Directorate.”
Cage Africa spokesperson Karen Jayes said a text message was circulated to all imams claiming that the man was known to the community as someone who was severely mentally ill and who had recently been discharged from a mental health facility.
She added: “He had been discharged from the mental hospital twice and the sickness came back.
“He had escaped from his family who looked for him everywhere. When he did this heinous crime, he wasn’t mentally stable.
“Even when the police told him to drop the knife, he approached them as if he wanted to attack them and that’s when the officer shot him dead.”
Jayes also cautioned against jumping to generalised conclusions about terrorism, Islam and Somalians. The attacker was a Somalian.
“We urge society to be careful about giving the Somali community flak, because one person is not representative of a whole community,” she said.
“We express our deep condolences to the families of the victims and also our shock, because South Africa is a very peaceful society, especially the Muslim community.
“For this kind of thing to be happening is really a shock and we are calling for the justice system to do its job.”
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said they had just received the docket and would carry out a full investigation.
The investigation into the mosque attack last month in KwaZulu-Natal was still ongoing and was at a “sensitive stage”. One person was killed and two injured in that attack and so far there have been no arrests. The motive for that attack was widely believed to be religious factionalism.