Some analysts say the US terror alert for South Africa is nothing new and is simply creating unnecessary public panic. On Saturday, the US government said it received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out attacks against places where its citizens congregate in shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
“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,” the embassy said in statement.
Naeem Jeenah from the Afro Middle East Centre says a similar alert was issued in September last year, when a group of South Africans returned from ISIS held territory in Syria.
“This often happens less as a result of any real threat, but more because the embassy wants to send messages to the SA Government,” he said.
“In September, when the last alert was issued, it was issued just a week before a group of South Africans returned home, after living in Raqqa. It was known by State security that they would be returning. There was no real evidence that was provided that time in September and even now.”
“You find that though the media release has links to certain pages on the State Department website, the State Department does not have a travel advisory for US citizens who want to come to South Africa.”
Regarding the possible attack on American citizens, Jeenah said the notion that there are certain shopping malls in South Africa where Americans congregate is “ridiculous”.
“Any single shopping mall is frequented by South Africans. So I don’t think we should put too much stock in this terror alert, particularly based on past experiences.”
The latest US “terror alert” in South Africa, should not come as a surprise to anyone, said the Media Review Network.
“South Africans have had our fair share of these “alerts”, starting with Hussein Solomon in 2007, when he addressed a Zionist Conference in Herzliya, in Israel. They labelled mosques and Muslim schools as centres where terrorism is preached and taught, to the perceived threat to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to terror training camps in the Eastern Cape, Pretoria and recruitment drives in Cape Town and Roshnee. We have heard it all from our “terror experts” locally and from abroad,” said the MRN’s Ibrahim Vawda.
“While these so-called threats are not about Islam, they do fuel Islamophobia. It is nevertheless important to those who conflate religion with politics. This is a convenient strategy and self-validating. The outlandish and often barbaric behaviour of the so-called Islamic State (IS) has given greater impetus to existing prejudices and propaganda.”
The MRN has urged the Department of State Security to engage the US Embassy, to provide the necessary evidence as to the source of this information.
“Our Security cluster should then be in a position to carry out its own investigations and not rely on peddlers of manufactured information,” added Vawda.
On Monday, the South African government said State Security officials have liaised with the US on the concerns they have and these engagements will continue as part of the ongoing work. 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.
Jeenah said South African citizens should not panic as South Africa’s state security officials are equipped to deal with any security threat.
“If there was a real threat, they would be dealing with it.” VOC