Korsten shoppers flee Somali kill zone

Lynn Williams  williamsl@avusa.co.za

TERRIFIED shoppers ran for their lives when violence between factions of the Somali community spilled into Port Elizabeth’s streets yesterday. The cold-blooded shooting of father-of-six Mohammed Hussan Sheik, 36, at 8am yesterday has raised fears among residents that Korsten could erupt into a war zone, because 90% of the Somali community in the city lives in the area.

Sheik’s murder was the second fatality resulting from Somali-on-Somali violence in three weeks.

 Police spokesman Captain Johan Rheeder said an incident was now taking place each month.

The shooting brought business in bustling Durban Road to a halt. Hundreds of people ducked for cover and several motorists veered off the road when shots were fired in the street.

Sheik desperately ran while being chased by his gun-wielding attacker.

When he fell at the corner of Daisy and Durban roads, his killer stood over him and calmly shot him several times in the head, according to witnesses.

“I was driving down Durban Road when I saw him [Sheik] being chased by another Somali with a gun,” said a witness, who did not want to be named.

“He tried to run from the shooter. When he fell, the shooter came up and shot him in the head. I could not believe what I was seeing.”

Sheik’s wife, Sarah, rushed to her husband and wept hysterically. She collapsed shortly afterwards.

Angry residents and onlookers bayed for the blood of the suspect when Gelvandale detectives made an arrest at a nearby shop. He struggled and swore at the onlookers when police arrested him.

When the crowds cheered the police, he shouted obscenities. Members of the crowd retaliated verbally.

Rheeder said Sheik was a suspect in an attempted murder case and his death might be the result of a revenge attack. “He had several gunshot wounds to the head.” A postmortem would determine how many times he had been shot.

“In the Schauderville and Korsten areas police have their hands full fighting gangsterism,” Rheeder said.

“The Somali-on-Somali violence is going to place a heavy burden on police.”

The atmosphere in the rented room Sheik shared with his wife and children in Korsten was sombre last night.

Sarah, who is six months’ pregnant with their seventh child, said someone had come looking for her husband at 7am yesterday, but he had already left.

She had heard shortly after 8am that he was lying dead. “After what happened today I fear for my life and that of my children,” she said.

“We were married for 18 years. Who is going to look after me and my family?

“I have been in this country for 10 years but I still don’t feel safe.”

Korsten councillor Isaac Adams said conflict between three different factions – the Somali Association of SA, the Somalia Board of SA, and the Ogaden Somali community of SA – was worrying.

He feared the faction-fighting had angered residents and could turn into xenophobic behaviour.

“Ninety per cent of the Somali population [in the city] lives in Korsten, so even if conflict happens in Motherwell, it spills over into the Korsten area.

“Korsten is becoming more and more crowded and a hotspot for these violent attacks. I think it’s time for the Home Affairs Department to step in.

“There are honest and hard-working members of the Somali community, but a small percentage are giving everyone a bad name.

“The trouble-makers should be dealt with,” Adams said.

The suspect will appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court today.

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