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NRI couple died of serious burns in S Africa by petrol bombing in their shop
Outraged business community plans protest

Durban, January 20, 2006
By Chris Jenkins

A man is being held in connection with the petrol bombing of an Eshowe cellphone shop that claimed the lives of its two young owners. The attack has outraged the local business community who, fearing for their lives, are considering protest action.

NRI Fiaz Motala, 22, and his wife Tahira, 21, died at Eshowe Hospital within an hour of each other on Monday night after sustaining serious burns according to The Mercury report The two were trapped behind the heavily barred counter of their tiny basement shop in Theatre Lane in a busy market area just off the town's main road on Monday morning. The shop exploded in a ball of fire after a man entered and poured a liquid, believed to be petrol, on the floor and set it alight. Owners of neighbouring shops raced to assist the couple, who were unable to get out from behind the counter.

Using hand-held extinguishers and buckets of water, they managed to put out the blaze. Two shopkeepers, covering themselves with blankets, risked their lives and entered the shop while it was still in flames and smashed the glass counter under the solid burglar guards, and dragged the couple out on to the pavement.

"We could see Mr Motala was very badly burned," said Connie Mthembu, of C and J Eating House directly across from the Motalas' shop, who helped put out the fire. "His burn wounds were terrible," said Mohammed Moosaji of Trendsetters, above Siza Cellphone Centre, who had rushed to help. Tony Subramoney, of Rank Cafe, who trades right next to the Motalas, said he had been in KwaDukuza at the time but his staff had reported an explosion and flames coming out of the shop. He had known the couple since they set up shop. They had locked themselves behind bars after being robbed a few months ago.

Police said a suspect, who might have been a dissatisfied customer, was under police guard in hospital in connection with the attack. They are investigating two counts of murder and one of arson. Local trader Mehmood Deedat, Chairman of the Eshowe Muslim Association, said people were devastated by the deaths of the young couple, and said yesterday that at least three shops had received threats of torching from customers since Monday's incident. Deedat said he would meet fellow shop owners to consider closing for three days in protest over the horrific incident.

"We need action, we need help and we need more policing," said Deedat, who had moved from Johannesburg to Eshowe in the belief that he would live a safer life in the Zululand town.

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