Hawks: Malmesbury mosque attack not linked to ‘extremists’

Forensic investigators and pathologists examine the crime scene and the body of murdered suspect after he was reportedly shot and killed by police for stabbing two worshippers at a mosque on June 14 2018 (Mujahid Safodien/M&G)

Forensic investigators and pathologists examine the crime scene and the body of murdered suspect after he was reportedly shot and killed by police for stabbing two worshippers at a mosque on June 14 2018 (Mujahid Safodien/M&G)

The man responsible for the killing of two worshippers at a mosque in Malmesbury in the Western Cape had a history of mental illness, police have confirmed.

The motive behind the violent attack remains unknown, but the Hawks have ruled out links to “extremist” groups.

In a wintry June day, a man entered the mosque in the small town of Malmesbury, ostensibly to escape the cold outside. He was welcomed in. It was the holy month of Ramadan, and the few people gathered inside the mosque were practicing an Islamic ritual of spiritual seclusion.

Between 3am and 4am on June 14, witnesses say he began stabbing worshippers.
Ismail Bassa (72) died after his throat was slashed and another Somali worshipper, Sayaad Hitig, was also killed by the attacker. Two others were injured.

The attacker was later killed by police after fleeing the mosque. He was shot dead by police after he continued to attempt to attack them.

On Thursday morning, the Hawks revealed the identity of the man behind the violent attack as Nur Arawal. He was a Somali national who had a history of mental health illness, the Hawks said.

“The suspect was identified as 23 year old Nur Arawal from Somalia.  Arawal was an outpatient at the Bellville’s Karl Bremer Psychiatric Hospital in 2013 until recently,” Hawks spokesperson Philane Nkwalase said in a statement.

Nkwalase said Arawal was not a member of any “extremist” organisation.

“The motive for the attack is not yet established but there are no links to suggest any involvement of extremists or radical activity,” Nkwalase said.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is continuing to investigate Arawal’s death. The families of the two who were violently slain will meanwhile wait for justice.

Bassa’s son, Saud, chased after Arawal when he saw him emerging from the mosque with a knife in hand, he said. He had been alerted that his father had been hurt by an attacker, and he saw a chance to help. But later that day, he would have to bury his father.

READ MORE: As Ramadan draws to an end, another mosque attack claims two lives

“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 Bassa said.

“My father is someone who is always in the mosque and he spent most of his time at the mosque,” he said.

The Hawks said that Arawal’s remains have been handed over to his family for repatriation and burial.

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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