While a dark cloud hangs over the Malmesbury community after last week’s senseless murders, some residents believe the tragedy has brought the small community of together during this time of grief and pain. Malmesbury, a small town 65 km north of Cape Town, has been rocked by the murder of two musallees at a local masjid in the early hours of Thursday morning – allegedly at the hands of a Somali national unknown to residents.
Two Muslim men observing itikaaf were stabbed to death, one of them 74 year old Ismail Bassa whose neck was slit during his sleep. Two others were left injured and the suspect was fatally wounded after a chase ensured between the suspect and the police.
In the aftermath of the brutal murders, vice chairperson of the Malmesbury masjid, Ihsaan Allie said the masjid and the deceased’s families have received support from the Christian religious communities and the broader community.
“The Muslim community has been in existence for almost a hundred years in Malmesbury, but the tragedy that occurred in our small town showed us what unity is. It was very sad seeing two families losing a father and husband, but the support made it a bit easy alhamdulillah,” said Allie.
Bassa, a regular musallee at the masjid, was the son in-law of the late Imam Taliep Solomon. According to Allie, Bassa’s first home was the masjid and his wife and his sons received immense support from residents because of his warm and generous character.
The second victim, Somali born Siyaad Hassan Hirsi, has been living in the community for over four months.
“He was a regular musallee, he used to sit on a particular chair when he recited the Quran. His off days he would spend in the masjid. His wife and children are living in Bellville; they are currently getting support from the local and Somali community,” Allie explained.
He when on to recalling what had happened the last Thursday of Ramadan when this tragic event took place. The deceased was in the masjid for Sunah I’ftikaaf and the other brother for nafl I’fitkaaf.
“The alleged killer came into the masjid at about 01:00 am. According to Moulana Ahmed, he lost control after 3am and stabbed Moulana Ahmed. Ismail Bassa’s son Faziel came in and got into a fight with the attacker who eventually walked calm. I live opposite the field and I witnessed how the police tried to calm him, before they had no alternative but to shoot him,” he explained.
There was a program at the masjid from 22:30pm until about 1am. When the majority of the musallees left to get some refreshments, the suspect entered the masjid. Allie explained that the attacker said that he was on his way to Vredenberg but wanted to spend the night in the masjid.
“One of our Somali brothers, Sheikh Umar spoke to the suspect a bit. He was unknown in our town and the broader Somali community had no knowledge of him. Some of the brothers had seen him briefly in Bellville on the Sunday before,” he added.
The alleged assailant has been identified as Noor Abdulle Araale, who was known locally as Noor Turaayo. Araale was said to be mentally unstable.
According to some eyewitnesses, the alleged attacker displayed strange behaviour during his brief stay at the mosque, with some reports of his eyes being “very red”.
The Somali Community Board of South Africa confirmed that the alleged perpetrator suffered from bipolar disorder, but had no history of violence.
“The perpetrator had been known as a Somali national, a devoted Muslim who regularly attended the masjid. He had never had any trouble with the law or anyone for that matter; however he was several times admitted for bipolar disorder attacks. Before this, there have been no known incidents of attacks from him or the other Somali nationals in the Western Cape,” said Somali Community Board chairperson Amir Sheikh.
He said the Somali community are in great shock but is grateful for all the support they have received from the South African community.
“Alhamdulillah we are humbled by the manner in which our leaders had handled the situation. Our Muslim brothers have given us reassuring messages that the Somali community cannot be branded by one individual’s actions. We are heartbroken and concerned at the actions of this Somali national,” said Sheikh.
He stressed that the South African Somali community does not condone any form of violence.
Sheikh said that he had requested the immediate family to send the proof of his condition, which he intends on forwarding to the Hawks who is investigating the matter.
“I received information last night that the person had not understood the basic of Islam. I’m not interested in any stories; I am appealing to the community if they have any information to forward it to the police,” he added.
The suspect will be buried by Islamic rites. His family in Modagishu, Somalia has been informed, and his body will only be released for burial once investigators give the go-ahead.
“We will not discriminate against the attacker and if we need to bury him we will proceed inshallah according to how Islam requires us,” he said,
Allie says community members still have a great sense of fear and anxiety when entering the Masjid, and many musallees were left traumatised.
On Monday afternoon, the MJC and the masjid committee were expected to meet with the Somali community.
“The understanding and the integration between the Somali brothers and the Malmesbury community is fantastic, alhamdulillah. Malmesbury was a quiet peaceful community, we still have a bit of fear but I think that’s normal.” VOC