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ISIS scare in SA is western influence: Patel attorney

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By Thakira Desai

The re-arrest of a woman previously accused of terrorism has sparked concerns abroad, with the United Kingdom issuing a warning to its citizens about a possible Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) cell operating within South Africa.  Fatima Patel (27) and her husband, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio (38), were arrested on February 15 on preliminary charges relating to the kidnapping of a Cape Town couple. The couple, who hold both South African and British citizenship, were allegedly kidnapped near Bivane Dam in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal, in mid-February.  The accused were transferred to the Durban North Police Station, with their bail application placed on the Verulam Court roll for March 1, 2018.

The latest developments in the case is the retrieval of the couple’s car on Wednesday in the Durban North area. The vehicle is being processed for necessary forensic evidence.

While the investigation is ongoing, the allegations against Patel and Del Vecchio have been labelled as “western” influence within South Africa.

Speaking to VOC, Patel’s attorney Yousha Tayob said in July 2016, there was much hype around Patel’s arrest when bullets and a stun grenade were discovered at her home. The discovery led to the arrest of Patel and her brother Ebrahim from their Azaadville home. The siblings were arrested a few hours before twin brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie were arrested on charges of possession of unlicensed ammunition and explosives. The twins remain in custody as they await their pre-trial hearing.

Tayob said the discoveries were explained and no terrorism charges arose out of the initial raid.

While the state is yet to conclude the final charge sheet in the latest arrest, the preliminary charge sheet states transgressions of kidnapping, robbery, malicious damage to property, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and displaying the ISIS flag at a public function.

According to Hawks spokesperson, captain Lloyd Ramovha, the pair face an arson charge for allegedly setting alight hectares of sugar cane fields in 2017.

Tayob said the charge sheet does not name a victim, but states that the kidnapping occurred between February 10 and 15, 2018.

“In so far as the assault, robbery and kidnapping are concerned, the charge sheet doesn’t even identify a victim – it simply says ‘you have kidnapped’.”

With regard to the flag, he said that both Patel and Del Vecchio are unsure about the details of the charge relating to them allegedly displaying the ISIS flag.

No ISIS link

Ramovha says for operational reasons, he is unable to divulge what was found in the possession of Patel and her husband at the time the arrest, the identities of the couple nor the purported link between Patel and the missing couple.

“Remember lives are at stake, we still have a couple that is missing. Our efforts and focus is to make that they are found and that they are found in a good state.”

He confirmed that despite having dual citizenship, the couple has lived in South Africa for about 40 years.

Ramovha asserts that there has not been “any conclusive link” connecting the accused to ISIS.

“That I can say with certainty,” he elaborated.

Given anger over the UK Government’s warning, he says that response will be handled at a higher level.

In a move that has since been criticized by locals, the UK Government has warned its citizens on its website about a “likely” terror cell in South Africa:

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities.

The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). In February 2018, two South African-British nationals were kidnapped.

News reports suggest that a number of South African nationals have travelled to Syria, Iraq and Libya. They are likely to pose a security threat on their return. There’s also a threat from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, to carry out so called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places including where foreigners may gather.

South African authorities have successfully disrupted several planned attacks and made a number of arrests related to terrorism offences including alleged plots to attack Jewish targets and western diplomatic missions. South African authorities have also been effective against right-wing extremists.

There’s 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.

Tayob asserted that the purported link between Patel and ISIS appears to be an intent by South Africa, “instructed by its western masters”, to create a terror threat in the country, because of the government’s dissociation from Israel.

“This is the second time that the media has made the association [between Patel and ISIS], I don’t know that they have any proof of that…and in the first instance, the ISIS link was proved to be nonsense.”

He said that there is no link between the Patel and Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, adding that there is “something much bigger at play now”.

“The same prosecutors who were involved in this matter were presented with direct evidence of Jewish South Africans who were serving in the Israeli Defence Force and they were not as eager to prosecute those transgressions as they are now against the Thulsie’s, Patel and Del Vecchio.”

VOC 91.3fm

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