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No need for panic: Security minister

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South Africa’s security agencies are capable of ensuring the safety of the people residing in the country‚ the government said on Saturday in response to an alert by the US government about the threat of possible terrorist attacks at places frequented by US citizens. The US diplomatic mission in South Africa said it had received information that terrorist groups were planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregated in South Africa‚ such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

On Monday, State Security Minister David Mahlobo said it is the responsibility of the South African security forces to ensure that all people within our territory are and feel safe.

“We remain a strong and stable democratic country and there is no immediate danger posed by the alert,” he said in a statement.

He reassured that the security services will continue to work on matters of violent extremism and terrorism amongst others and ensure the safety of all citizens and residents.

Approached for comment‚ Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said: “The state security agency and other security agencies in this country are very much capable of keeping South Africa safe. The security of this country is as good as it always has been.”

He declined to comment further. Police were not immediately available for comment but were quoted in other media as saying they were studying the US embassy statement.

The US embassy said in a security warning posted on its website on Saturday:  “This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan.”

This is the second warning against terror attacks on South African soil in less than a year. In September last year the US government warned its citizens of possible terror attacks against US facilities and business interests in SA.

Washington said at the time that it had received “specific‚ credible‚ non-counterable” threat information‚ prompting the embassy in SA to issue a “security and emergency message” to its citizens and businesses in SA.

Evidence of terrorist groups using SA as a safe haven has been around for the past decade. Since 2003‚ there have been cases involving al-Qaeda members using South African passports‚ and terrorism-related arrests of its members who had spent time in the country.

In November last year‚ a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies warned that the whole world‚ including SA‚ was at risk of terrorist attacks.

“The Islamic State declaring its intention to attack western interests in any part of the world makes any country‚ including SA … vulnerable‚” Martin Ewi told News24 at the time.

There are a number of western interests in SA and in Africa as a whole.

“There could be an attack (in SA) because we harbour elements that are incompatible with these Islamic groups.”

However‚ the country had good policies that minimised the threat and made sure SA did not infuriate Muslims or isolate the Muslim community‚ Ewi said. He said security measures would help deter an attack.

“If security measures are not effective (terrorists) can take advantage.”

Security wasn’t the only factor‚ however. He warned that a country could also be at risk if a neighbouring state was
not secure.

[Source: RDM]
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