Take terrorism threats seriously, expert warns South Africa
JOHANNESBURG – THE Institute for Security Studies (ISIS) counter-terrorism guru, Martin Ewi has strongly advised the security apparatus to be on the look-out for more terror threats following the arrest of four suspects in Gauteng who were allegedly plotting to execute terrorist related activities in the province.
“It is true for the past 16 years or so, the country has had no attack from terrorists but there have been activities pointing to vulnerability thereof. I think this arrest confirms the need to do an assessment of terrorist activities in the country. South Africa is increasingly being exposed to the global threat of terrorism,” says Ewi.
In a crack joint operation that was carried out by the National Intervention Unit, the Hawks, the Bomb Squad and other law enforcement agencies, two suspects from Newclare, 23 year-old twin brothers Brandon Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie and two other unnamed man and woman from Azaadville were arrested last weekend.
They are facing three charges related to terrorism and are accused of planning to bomb the United States embassy and “Jewish institutions.” They have since appeared in the Johannesburg and Kagiso Magistrates’ Courts facing terrorism charges.
“The arrests to some extent confirm the alert earlier issued by the US because the suspects wanted to attack the US and Jewish communities. Many people criticized the Americans when they gave the warning, but the arrests have left a question mark. The country needs to comb many areas to see who is doing what and where. There is need to profile the behaviour of citizens regardless of their gender, race and nationality,” adds Ewi.
The Thelsie twin brothers who were arrested during anti-terror raids in Johannesburg last Saturday were charged with three counts of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
The act was put in place to provide measures to prevent and combat terrorist and related activities and to provide for a mechanism to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions, which are binding on member states, in respect of terrorist and related activities.
According to the provisional charge sheet, between October last year and this month, the twins planned to “cause explosions at a mission of the United States of America and Jewish institutions” in South Africa.
“Such conspiracy and incitement was intended to cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of South Africa – and in particular the US and Jewish sector thereof,” it says.
Among their other charges are that, in April last year, the twins tried to travel to Syria and join Islamic State. However, their attempt was thwarted after the Hawks informed the airline of their intentions.
After this, in July last year, the twins “unlawfully and intentionally conspired and attempted to perform acts” which would enhance the ability of Islamic State, making themselves available to the organisation to engage in terrorist activity.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokeswoman Phindi Louw said the twins had been under surveillance for about a year before the Hawks swooped in on them. The twins will remain in custody.
Last month, Britain and the US warned of a high threat of terrorist attacks against foreigners at shopping malls across the country, but South African security officials claimed there were no known militant groups operating in the country at the time. In September last year, similar warnings were issued by the US Embassy.
In 2014, Iraq’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Hushaim al-Alawi, reportedly said South Africans were funding the Islamic State (IS) group through false charities and “humanitarian organisations.”
The same embassy last year warned that at least 100 South Africans had been recruited into IS
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