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Terror attack in SA is possible‚ expert warns

TMG Digital | 2016-06-05 13:46:08.0

Image by: Durban SA ‏@DuRRbanSA via Twitter

The recruitment of possible terrorists in South Africa is growing‚ an expert on terrorism has told eNCA in an interview.

Jasmine Opperman‚ a director at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium‚ told the television news station that face-to-face recruiters were now active in Cape Town‚ Johannesburg‚ Newcastle and Port Elizabeth.

“The next step ... is the formation of recruitment cells. And Morocco‚ Spain and Europe has proven that once you have recruitment cells‚ the operationalisation of these cells to take active action is the next step‚" she said.

The statement follows a warning on Saturday by the US government to its citizens in South Africa about the danger of possible terror attacks at upscale shopping areas and malls.

"The US Diplomatic Mission to South Africa informs US citizens that the US government has received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa‚ such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town‚" the US embassy said in a statement on its website.

"This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan‚" it added.

Responding to the warning‚ Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said: "The state security agency and other security agencies in this country are very much capable of keeping South Africa safe. The security of this country is as good as it always has been."

Meanwhile a “twar” between Monyela and the US ambassador to South Africa‚ Patrick Gaspard‚ has reportedly developed on twitter.

Monyela was reported to have tweeted on Saturday night: "The last advisory by @USEmbassySA to US citizens in SA warning of an 'imminent attack' proved to be a false alarm. I see there's another 1."

To which Gaspard hit back with: "The price of freedom is eternal diligence‚ and through Grace we are all made safe. The only false note is arrogance."

This is the second warning against terror attacks on South African soil in less than a year. In September last year the US government warned its citizens of possible terror attacks against US facilities and business interests in SA.

Washington said at the time that it had received "specific‚ credible‚ non-counterable" threat information‚ prompting the embassy in SA to issue a "security and emergency message" to its citizens and businesses in SA.

Evidence of Islamist terrorist groups using SA as a safe haven has been around for the past decade. Since 2003‚ there have been cases involving al-Qaeda members using South African passports‚ and terrorism-related arrests of its members who had spent time in the country.

In November last year‚ a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies warned that the whole world‚ including SA‚ was at risk of terrorist attacks.

"The Islamic State declaring its intention to attack western interests in any part of the world makes any country‚ including SA ... vulnerable‚" Martin Ewi told News24 at the time.

There are a number of western interests in SA and in Africa as a whole.

"There could be an attack (in SA) because we harbour elements that are incompatible with these Islamic groups."

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