The case of 19 people arrested in connection with a number of improvised explosive devices planted in a number of Woolworths stores throughout Durban continued behind closed doors on Tuesday.
The precinct around the Verulam Magistrate’s Court was surrounded by police and extreme security measures were in place as the 19 suspects made their first appearance in the court on Monday after being arrested last week on charges including murder, attempted murder, offenses relating to explosive devices, arson, extortion and terrorism.
The media were not allowed inside the courtroom.
Hawks spokesman, Hangwani Mulaudzi, said the court appearance was in private to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.
“We view this matter in a very serious light. We requested the court to give us time so that we can finalize these investigations. There are issues that we still have to deal with like your ID parades. We felt that if we have to bring in the media and any other persons, it will be to the detriment of our investigations. So this is not a blanket barring of the media. We are just asking for a few days,” he said.
The matter was adjourned to Tuesday as they needed translators for some of the suspects.
Police Minister, Bheki Cele, revealed at an urgent press briefing on Friday afternoon that police had arrested three ‘main targets’ and more arrests were to be made.
He declined to provide further information on the identity of the suspects as further arrests were imminent on that Friday afternoon.
Early this year, several explosive devices were found hidden in retail stores, including Woolworths, across Durban.
Between March and August this year, Durban and surrounding areas were plagued with several incidents of placing and detonating these devices. This also included widespread hoax calls.
The three main targets and 16 other suspects were arrested in and around Durban on Friday by an integrated team involving the Hawks (Crimes Against the State), Crime Intelligence, the Forensic Unit, the National Prosecuting Authority and other departments from the justice cluster.
During the arrest, various items were confiscated including a ready made incendiary device.
Police also managed to rescue a victim who was found chained and malnourished inside a dungeon in one of the houses. The victim is under police protection in a local hospital.
Minister Cele said, “Government has deemed the incidents very serious and they demanded a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to book. Nothing will distract or divert our attention from creating a safe and secure environment for all people of South Africa.”
“I also want to reiterate the government’s stance and reassure South Africans that we, as the South African Police Service, will continue to do everything within our constitutional mandate to ensure that people are and feel safe,” he continued.
The minister welcomed the arrests and congratulated the multi-disciplinary team for tirelessly working to ensure peace and stability is restored in Durban.
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National Commissioner of Police, General Khehla Sitole, and the National Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, also commended the team.
The suspects have been linked to the attack on a mosque in Verulam that took place in May.
One worshipper was killed and two others injured when three men entered the mosque and attacked them, before setting the mosque alight.
Incendiary devices were also discovered.
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