Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

Parliament has called on the police to prioritise the investigation of Thursday afternoon’s fatal attack at a KwaZulu-Natal mosque.

The motive for the attack is unknown‚ but police‚ private security and paramedics said that three men attacked Imam Hussain Mosque in Ottawa in Verulam‚ north of Durban.

Two men had their throats slit and another was stabbed in the attack.

One victim jumped from a side window of the building, which was set ablaze sending smoke billowing, said Prem Balram, a spokesman for Reaction Unit SA, a private emergency service that was among the first on the scene.

"One of the three has just died on his way to hospital. The other two are in critical condition," Balram said.

Police spokesman Captain Nqobile Gwala said: "They allegedly attacked three people and stabbed them.

"They further set certain rooms alight and fled in their getaway vehicle.

"There is a knife that was recovered at the scene. We believe the knife may have been used in the crime," Gwala said.

Parliamentary portfolio committee on police chairman Francois Beukman said that the attack was shocking and the South African Police Service should prioritise the investigation. "A mosque is a religious institution. SA’s Constitution guarantees and protects the right to religious practices.

"This kind of attack on three innocent people is totally unjustified. We want our communities to live in harmony‚ practising their religions without fear‚" he said.

Beukman said everything should be done to arrest the perpetrators. He called on anyone with information to contact law-enforcement agencies.

The Muslim Judicial Council condemned the attack strongly. In a statement‚ the council reiterated that a core teaching of Islam was "respect for all human beings".

"We remind South Africans that the make-up of our society is one of religious‚ cultural and ethnic diversity and tolerance‚" it said.

"We call on all communities to remain law-abiding citizens and refrain from any and all forms of vigilantism."

"It is the first time anything like this has happened in South Africa, let alone in KwaZulu-Natal province," said Faizel Suliman, chairman of the South African Muslim Network

"It was a sudden attack. At this point we don’t have enough information. Speculation about the motive is quite dangerous at this point."

Acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Maj-Gen Bheki Langa said the case was being investigated.

"Such criminality cannot be tolerated, Langa said.

"A team of investigators has been dispatched to solve the case and bring perpetrators to book," he said.

TimesLIVE with Reuters