A deadly bomb maker for the dreaded Islamic State terrorist group (Isis) was intercepted and arrested at a Turkish airport as he was about to board a flight to Johannesburg.
According to report, the suspect, who is an Iraqi named Abu Osama, was arrested when he was allegedly planning to take a trip down to South Africa to detonate bombs.
Abu Osama’s arrest took place shortly after immigration officials at OR Tambo flagged another suspected terrorist entering South Africa from Turkey. He was originally from the US.
“Our intelligence officials believe Abu wasn’t coming to South Africa to recruit for IS, but to identify a specific target that would later be attacked,” confirmed Iraqi ambassador Saad Kindeel.
He said the Isis member, Osama is an engineer who has been planning to flee Turkey after being tipped off that his cover was blown.
Speaking on Sunday to Sundaylive, on behalf of acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, Hangwani Mulaudzi also confirmed that SA has had two incidents of terrorist attacks within a very short time. The first was on December 16 which was dealt with by immigration officials at OR Tambo, where a person coming from the US via Turkey was flagged and sent back to Turkey.”
The two incidents have sparked concern that South Africa might be facing an increased risk of terror attacks, specifically on US-based businesses and buildings.
Kindeel also confirmed incidence of attack and noted that Iraq had more information on the planned attack in SA by the Isis member, Osama, but he could not share this with the South African government until it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraq in which both countries agreed to share security information.
“I am surprised the South African government is taking its time to sign this memorandum. We are providing the information for free, which can be used to protect its citizens,” the ambassador said.
Mahlobo said extremist groups were recruiting people with clean records so they were not easily identified. “They are clean with no dodgy past,” he said.
Kindeel noted in an interview with Sundaytimes, that arrested Osama is being held by Iraqi officials in Baghdad where he confessed to planning an attack on the US air base at Incirlik in Turkey.
He said he had recruited a suicide bomber for the mission and his next target would be in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Jasmine Opperman- a source in the SA security services with direct access to anti-terror investigations- expressed confidence that South Africa will not be the victim of any attack, but believe there is a risk against foreign assets in the country.
She said there were many IS-linked foreigners receiving training in South Africa and recruiting here for the organisation.
Jasmine warned that while she had no specific knowledge of the Isis member’s alleged plot to attack South Africa, it “sounds definitely plausible”.
“Information from foreign intelligence agencies, including Iraq, about terror threats to South Africa “must always be verified for credibility and reliability,” she cautioned as she calls on South Africans to stay wherever they are and use whatever means available to execute an attack where they are.
“This will be seen as equally important as going to the caliphate in terms of showing your loyalty,” she said. “South Africa is entering this phase,” Jasmine added.