The mosque attack in which three people's throats were slit after midday prayers, killing one of them, has raised fears of extremism in a community near the South African city of Durban.

Police investigators collect evidence at a mosque where three men were attacked in Ottawa, South Africa, May 10, 2018.
Police investigators collect evidence at a mosque where three men were attacked in Ottawa, South Africa, May 10, 2018. (Rogan Ward / Reuters)

South Africa's elite police unit says it's investigating an "element of extremism" in a mosque attack in which three people's throats were slit after midday prayers, killing one of them.

Police spokesman Simphiwe Mhlongo said "you can see elements of hatred to a certain religion" in Thursday's attack in the mosque's worship space.

But Mhlongo says police can't yet say whether the assault on the Imam Hussein mosque in the eastern town of Verulam, just north of Durban, can be called a terror attack.

He says police can't confirm reports that the three attackers were Egyptian. They are still at large.

Mhlongo says the two other victims are still hospitalised.

A mosque representative has blamed "fanatics" and says they plan to go ahead with Friday prayers.

South Africa has a history of relative religious tolerance. About 1.5 percent of the country's population is Muslim.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is due to start next week.

"It is the first time anything like this has happened in South Africa, let alone in KwaZulu-Natal province," said Faizel Suliman, chairman of the SA Muslim Network.

"It was a sudden attack, and at this point, we don't have enough information. Speculation about the motive is quite dangerous at this point."

Source: AP