Three suspects linked to several bomb scares throughout KwaZulu-Natal involving incendiary devices planted in various malls in recent months were arrested on Friday.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who announced that "three main targets have been arrested in connection with the placing and detonating of these devices", also linked the suspects to the Verulam mosque attack that took place in May.
"Between March and August this year, Durban and surrounding areas were plagued with several incidents of placing and detonating of these devices," said Cele in a statement.
In July, hoax callers ran rampant, making three fake bomb threats in one day at some point.
The Phoenix police station, the Cornubia Mall and the Commercial City Building had to be evacuated after receiving bomb threats.
Also in July, an explosive device was found at a Woolworths store in the Durban CBD, while another device was found in the Southgate Mall in Johannesburg in August.
Multi-disciplinary team tasked with investigation
"In a separate incident that was linked to some [incidents] of the placing of devices, three men were attacked in May this year at a mosque in Verulam which left one person dead and two others critically wounded."
An explosive device was also found at the mosque after the attack.
Following the mosque attack, a multi-disciplinary team comprising Crime Intelligence, the Hawks, forensic experts and the National Prosecuting Authority was tasked to investigate these incidents, the minister said.
"The team has worked and continued to work tirelessly over the past four months and has identified and arrested at least three suspects in various areas of KwaZulu-Natal.
"I can confirm at this stage that some of these incidents are linked to each other and more arrests are imminent."
Cele said the suspects, who are expected to appear in court next week, would likely face charges of murder, contravention of the Explosive Act and arson.
Suspects not to be named
"Up to this point the team has established extortion as the most likely motive for these incidents. However, as the investigation progresses we cannot rule out the possibility of other motives."
Cele appealed that the suspects not be named until they appear in court and that everyone allow for the criminal justice process to prevail.
"I also want to take this opportunity to 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," Cele said.
"In conclusion, I want to commend and congratulate the multi-disciplinary team for the sterling work they have done thus far. I have been made aware that this has not been an easy investigation, however, the team prevailed."