South African terror alert based on “specific, credible information”

The US Embassy in Pretoria said it continued to work with the South African government, despite a strongly-worded statement by the latter condemning its terror message.

US Embassy spokesperson Cynthia Harvey on Thursday afternoon said the embassy would continue to work with the South African government on the matter.

She confirmed there was “no change in status of the security message issued on June 4, 2016. It was based on specific, credible, and non-counterable threat information”.

Harvey said the embassy has been, and continues to be, “pleased and impressed with the high level of professionalism and transparent co-operation with the government of South Africa throughout this period”.

Asked for comment on a statement by the South African government in which the departments of international relations and state security slammed the US for basing its warning on information that was “very sketchy”, Harvey said: “We cannot comment on the internal communications process within the South African government, but we will continue to work with our counterparts in the South Africa government going forward.”

Read: SA government slams US and UK over “sketchy” terrorism warnings

In the statement, the government said the terror warning was “dubious, unsubstantiated and provided by a ‘walk-in’ source, based on questionable conclusions”.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo earlier said that South African security agencies were working with the relevant authorities to keep citizens safe.

The government said in its recent statement that it had formally protested to the relevant embassies over the way the matter was handled.

“South Africa, as a sovereign peace loving country, has always adopted a professional manner in engaging with other countries on these issues.

“We are, therefore displeased with the manner in which some countries have reciprocated. Their actions have been disingenuous and a cause for serious concern to our government,” the statement read.

The British and the Australian governments updated their travel advisories for South Africa following the US warning, but they did not advise their citizens against travelling to this country.

Isabel Potgieter, spokesperson for the United Kingdom High Commission in Pretoria, said they would be meeting with the Department of International Relations soon, but she could not say whether the terror warning would be discussed.

The meeting “forms part of our ongoing, continuous discussions with the South African government”, she said.

The US said in its alert that it had received information that radical Islamic terror groups were planning to attack “places where US citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town” ahead of Ramadan, which started on Tuesday.

The Institute of Race Relations CEO Dr Frans Cronje said it was misleading for South Africa’s security agencies to say there was no terror link or threat in the country.

“The type of attacks that played themselves out most recently in France and Belgium are very difficult to prevent and it is that type of attack – a relatively isolated incident carried out by a small group of extremists with simple weaponry against a prominent target – which South Africa is also vulnerable to.”

He said there were examples of terror suspects being in possession of SA passports.

“There is also no security agency anywhere in the world that could provide an assurance that a specific country faces no terror threat. Terror is a global threat and as security measures in Western democracies are strengthened, scenarios that see Western-aligned targets being attacked in third party countries become more likely,” said Cronje.


More on terrorism in SA

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Britain warns citizens of ‘high’ terror threat in South Africa

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South African terror alert based on “specific, credible information”