Hawks ground drone pilot

17 July 2016 - 02:00 By STEPHAN HOFSTATTER and MONICA LAGANPARSAD


The Hawks are investigating a man for possible terror links after he flew a drone over the US consulate from Sandton City in Johannesburg. Gauteng Hawks head Major-General Prince Mokotedi confirmed that the police's crimes against the state unit was probing possible links to four terror suspects arrested a week ago."We don't want to push any panic buttons, but we are taking this very seriously," he said. "We are trying to link [him] to other groups."The Hawks said they had received a report from the crime intelligence division's counterterrorism section that a 24-year-old man had been spotted flying a drone from the shopping centre premises on June 24.He had been ordered by security guards to land the drone and not fly it there again.story_article_left1The man was detained two days later when he was again seen in the centre's rooftop parking area, near the US consulate, carrying a drone.The Hawks confirmed US security staff had provided them with photographs of the drone flying over the consulate.The owner of the drone was interrogated for several hours, his car was searched and the contents of his cellphone were downloaded, with his permission, the Hawks said. Documents found in his car revealed that he had travelled to Saudi Arabia.The initial investigation could not link him to terror cases in South Africa and he was released.Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said yesterday that the drone had been handed to the Civil Aviation Authority for further investigation."We are making our own parallel investigation into this guy," he said.US embassy spokeswoman Cynthia Harvey said: "We can confirm that the US consulate general in Johannesburg sighted a drone flying over the grounds of the consulate, as well as other properties, on June 24 and 27."We reported the incident to the SAPS and we commend its response. The mission has co-operated with SAPS on the investigation."

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