Township man dies in Syria fighting for IS
When Musa Abu Mujahid Oscar left Mabopane township in Pretoria North two years ago, he told his parents he was going to Cape Town to start a well-paying job.
Unbeknown to them and the mother of his four-year-old daughter, he later left for Syria, where he joined the war on the side of Islamic State.
Three weeks ago they learnt that he had been killed while fighting for the extremist militant group .
"We were all shocked when we saw his bloodstained photo circulated on social media, just hours after he was killed, that he was actually in Syria and not Cape Town," said Muhammad Molewa, an administrator of one of the mosques in Mabopane that Musa used to frequent.
"His poor parents can't even afford to fly to Syria and they don't even know where their son was buried."
Na'eem Jeenah of the Afro-Middle East Centre, a Johannesburg-based NGO doing research on the Middle East, said Musa was the first South African recruited from a township to be killed in Syria.
"Reports indicate that between 60 to 80 South Africans left for Syria about two years ago but only a handful this year. The number declined in 2016 because most of the Muslim scholars and teachers went on a drive educating the masses about IS," Jeenah said.
Musa was killed in Raqqa on December 4. His photo has been circulated on social media, where he has been hailed as a hero.
Molewa said Musa married a woman he met in Syria. The woman, identified only as Mujaheed Di B, wrote on Facebook: "Assalaamu alaykum [peace be with you], I (the wife of Abu Mujahid) am informing you of best of news. Allah has taken our beloved Abu Mujahid as shadiid in His path, may Allah accept him and grant him the highest Firdaus, Aamiin."
Bilal Berend of the Mabopane mosque said Musa "left without our knowledge". "This young man couldn't afford to go to Syria on his own. Our brothers and sisters are being recruited to go to Syria and to fight for Isis [an alternative name for Islamic State], a war they know nothing about."
Berend said there was a drive to recruit South Africans and they had passed on information to state security investigators.
State Security Agency spokesman Brian Dube refused to answer specific questions but said that South Africa "is not immune to terrorism" and that there had been an increase in the number of South Africans associating themselves with terrorist organisations.
"Despite this persistent global terrorism threat, our country remains relatively stable. We are aware and remain on top of these matters," Dube said.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said: "Whatever information we get that requires in-depth investigation is passed on to state agencies responsible for national security. Any South African caught engaging in terrorist activities will face the full might of the law."
Other South Africans killed in Syria while fighting for IS include Bilal Cajee and his brother Ahmed, from Roshnee in Vereeniging. Fayaaz Valli, also from Vereeniging, was believed to be the first South African killed in Syria on his way to join IS in 2013.