State government has discovered and confirmed that the Islamic State militant groups (ISIS) are still using parts of the country as their “logistics” hub.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba made the announcement on Friday saying the department has discovered a number of “sleeper cells” that are operating in the country.
He said the country has become a prominent zone of heightened activity for the likes of ISIS and other terror groups.
Addressing a news conference, the minister said “government is aware that there are people who are using South Africa… as a hideout,” and that government is aware of these individuals who lay low, plotting attacks in locations around the world in co-ordination with their central command units.
Gigaba also confirmed that they know the whereabouts of these cells, but stressed that the situation is “under control”.
Asked what action government is taking to address the issue, he said: “We don’t talk about those things,” and that he would not want to be pressed for more details.
Gigaba’s comments on Friday came after years of information from research organisations, experts and other governments that have long flagged the risk of attack.
In a policy brief in April, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) reported on concerns that radical Islamist organisations like the ISIS, could be using South Africa as a hub for logistical reasons.
Concerns have since been raised, however, over the country’s preparedness to deal with terrorist attacks, as well as the government’s lack of communication in passing on valid information to South African citizens on time.
We could recall that in July, the SA police arrested four people, including twins, who were accused of planning attacks on the US embassy in Pretoria, as well as on buildings owned by Jewish people.
The twin brothers also were accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State military group, ISIS.
In June, the US embassy warned Americans in South Africa to stay clear of some commercial places in most south African cities, saying its government received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa.
As if to emphasise the threat, UK and Australian governments also updated their travel advice for citizens, warning: “There is a high threat from terrorism.
Gigaba’s statement on Friday on the state of the country’s security is proof that the country is more under threat than the government has previously admitted, and that analysts haven’t been exaggerating their concerns after all.
The minister said places like Pretoria would continue to ensure it didn’t become a target. “We don’t want to be mobilised into other people’s fights,” he added.