A terrorism expert has warned that recruitment of possible terrorists is on the rise in South Africa, but warned against fear mongering, eNCA has reported.
It follows a warning by the US embassy on Saturday that terrorist groups are planning to carry out attacks in South Africa, specifically targeting shopping malls,
Jasmine Opperman, a director at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, told eNCA that face-to-face recruiters are active in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Newcastle and Port Elizabeth.
‘The moment you have face-to-face recruiters, 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.
“South Africa’s vulnerability is increasing, and that is the concern”.
The embassy published a statement on its website on Saturday, under the title: ‘Security Message for US Citizens: Threats to 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.
“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.”
Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela responded belatedly to the announcement: “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.”
The UK embassy also put out a warning for its citizens.
“There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
“There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
Opperman said that while embassies was obliged to put out warning notices, such action could cause fear mongering.
The expert called for better cooperation between SA intelligence units and the US.
“The moment there is intelligence available at a US mission. Lets verify, lets look at the accuracy, lets see if we can get more detail before going public. When we go public, at least we can substantiate our arguments. Its not happening.”
The terrorism expert said that while South Africa’s vulnerability to terrorism has increased, it does not mean that we are now on the verge of imminent attacks.
News24 reported that Monyela 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.”
US ambassador to South Africa‚ Patrick Gaspard, responded: “The price of freedom is eternal diligence‚ and through Grace we are all made safe. The only false note is arrogance.”
In September 2015, the US government warned its citizens of possible terror attacks against US facilities and business interests in SA.
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