Mosque attack victim Moulana Ali Nchinyane (right) with Moulana Aftab Haider of the Ahlul Bait Foundation. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Mosque attack victim Moulana Ali Nchinyane (right) with Moulana Aftab Haider of the Ahlul Bait Foundation. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Shia Muslim cleric Ali Nchinyane is in no doubt that the attackers at the Imam Hussain Mosque wanted to kill him, saying, "They wanted my blood."

Nchinyane survived a knife-attack at the mosque in Ottawa, KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.

In a moment he said marked the line between life and death, Nchiyane grappled with one of the three men who had stormed the mosque intent on killing him. "Whether I was the target or our building was, I don’t know … but I do know for certain that this was not a robbery, these men did not come here to steal things," he said.

"He said he wanted to kill me and I grabbed his knife. He shouted at me to let it go and I told him that I would let go when he unhanded me. In that moment I know he wanted to take my life."

It is understood that the trio, dressed in traditional Muslim attire, arrived at the mosque after midday prayers had drawn to a close. The caretaker and muzzien (the man tasked with leading the call to prayer), Muhammad Ali, had noticed the men at the gate and, thinking they were coming to pray, let them inside.

Once in the property, the men attacked Ali and Nchiyane with knives before torching the mosque’s library.

Mechanic Abbas Essop, who responded to Ali’s screams, had run into the mosque; he had his throat slit and died later in hospital. Ali remains in a serious condition in a Durban hospital, after his attackers slashed his midsection. Nchiyane was stabbed in his upper body.

The moulana [Muslim scholar] said that their Shia beliefs had drawn the scorn of Islamic extremists, who disagree with the teachings of their sect. "This was a religious attack, which is all that this thing was about. They wanted to kill us all [and raze the mosque] because of our beliefs."

The Shia believe that the direct descendents of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad should lead the faith.

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