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South Africa's Second Mosque Attack Since May Kills Three

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South Africa's Second Mosque Attack Since May Kills Three

  • Assailant stabs two to death before being shot by police
  • Assault comes a month after three men attacked Durban mosque

The Imam Hussain Mosque was evacuated after a device was found in the building on May 13, on the outskirts of Durban.

Photographer: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP via Getty Images 

Photographer: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP via Getty Images 

A mosque attack in South Africa’s Western Cape province left three people dead and more injured, the second such incident in the country in as many months.

The solo killer stabbed two people to death early on Thursday while they were praying in Malmesbury, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Cape Town, the South African Police Service said. The suspect was then shot by police. The case has been handed to the Hawks, an elite law-enforcement unit, for further investigation.

The attack followed an assault by three men on a mosque last month in Durban, South Africa’s third-biggest city, which left one man dead and two in a serious condition. While Africa’s most industrialized economy has long struggled with violent crime, attacks motivated by religion are relatively unusual.

“This should be taken very seriously, but our sense is it’s domestic in origin -- no organization is doing this,” Frans Cronje, chief executive officer of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said by phone. “It may be that a handful of scholars have been able to take advantage of those in tough economic circumstances.”

The attack came at the end of Ramadan. Eid Eid-al-Fitr., the Islamic religious holiday that follows the month of fasting, may start as soon as Friday.

“The Muslim Judicial Council is shocked to its core to learn of a brutal attack in Malmesbury,” the religious body said on its Facebook page. “We urge the community not to jump to any conclusions until clarity can be given.”

— With assistance by Loni Prinsloo

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)