South Africa Mosque Attack Looks 'Like a Slaughterhouse,' Witness Says

Three assailants entered a mosque in the South African town of Verulam on Thursday and stabbed three people before lighting the building on fire, according to reports.

One of the victims died and the other two are currently in critical condition. One witness told reporters that the mosque looked "like a slaughterhouse." Religious leaders said that this was the first time this particular mosque was attacked.

Only around 3 percent of South Africa's population is estimated to practice Islam, and the majority of the country's Muslims live in the capital of Cape Town. There have been some Islamophic attacks on South African mosques in the past, but few have been as violent as the one that took place Thursday. Last year, a mosque in Cape Town was covered in pig's blood in what officials claimed was an Islamophobic attack. In a separate incident, someone left a pig's snout in a mosque.

Others, however, have touted South Africa as a place where religious pluralism existed despite racial tensions.

"Growing up in early 90s South Africa I was not exposed to many different races, in that stifling, artificially divided environment apartheid left us with. But I was immersed in a rich religious melange that formed my understanding of community. My neighbours on my right were Hindu, on my left were Christians and opposite me were Muslims," Shubnum Khan, a South African author and artist who writes frequently about Indian Muslim communities in her country, wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post last year.

Recently, South Africa began promoting tourism for Muslims. "We needed another narrative to meet the (Muslim) market's wants and needs, to make sure we deliver in a professional way but also a respectful way by firstly understanding the culture," Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, told CNN.

Police are now looking for the suspects in the Verulam mosque attack, who are believed to have guns in addition to their knives. The suspects are believed to be Indian, although they were allegedly wearing balaclavas during the attack.