‘We tried to help our dad’ – brothers they tried to save father from mosque attacker

The sons of Ismail Bassa, 74, who was killed in a mosque attack in Malmesbury on Thursday morning, have recalled of how they tried to fight off his attacker.

Saud Bassa, 30, said his brother, Faizel, 24 was also injured in the attack.

Saud said his father was attacked during the early hours, while he was sleeping in the mosque.

His father was in the mosque for Itikaaf – an Islamic practice where men retreat to the mosque to live and pray for the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan.

Thursday was expected to be the last day of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.


Two people were killed in the attack at the Malmesbury mosque at about 3am.

When News24 arrived, the Bassa home was crowded as people also took shelter from the rain.

The Bassa family live next door to the mosque and the brothers were at home when one of the imams came shouting for help.

“We tried to help him, but the guy stabbed my brother. We chased him down… and police found him,” he said.

“It’s sad, but Allah has taken him in a place he loved the most, so in a way, we can also be thankful… and for the time he passed away [during Ramadan].”

Saud said the attacker couldn’t speak English or Afrikaans, and that a Somali leader had to be called inside the mosque when he entered. He said it was dark inside the mosque and that the attacker had tried to lock people inside.

‘A killer knife’
“My father is someone who is always in the mosque and he spent most of his time at the mosque,” he said, adding that the attacker was short and wore a turban and flag around him. He could not say what kind of flag it was.

“This [incident] happened while [my dad] was sleeping. It was an unknown guy; the guy asked for shelter for the night,” he said.

Saud said the attacker was not drunk, but did seem “out of it” and he had a long knife.

When asked how long it was, he sighed and said it was “a killer knife”.

His brother Faizel said he managed to get in a “few shots” – punches – but the attacker also stabbed him in the arm and face.

Saud said that when the police approached the attacker, he tried to stab the van. The attacker was killed 200 metres from the mosque.

Meanwhile, the MJC said the Muslim community in Malmesbury and the broader Muslim community in SA were a peace-loving community and that what had happened was “very tragic”.

“The matter is with the South African Police Service and it will be further investigated. We condemn the killing of any innocent people. The sanctity of the mosque is scarred by this particular incident. We are deeply traumatised,” said MJC president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams. – News24

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Jenna Etheridge
Jenna Etheridge
Journalist, writer and editor

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