Britain warns of IS attacks in South Africa


Britain warns of a threat of attacks by Islamists on foreigners in South Africa after two British nationals were kidnapped in a small town, but South African police said they have no evidence militants were behind the incident.

Africa’s most industrialised country has a large expatriate community and attracts many tourists and has seldom been associated with Islamist militancy. No attack followed a similar warning by Britain and the United States in June 2016.

South Africa’s elite police unit Hawks said the force was investigating the kidnapping, which took place on February 12.

Britain’s Foreign Office (FCO) said on its website the main threat was from Islamic State.

In an email to Reuters, the FCO said: “We have updated our travel advice to include this recent incident”, referring to the kidnapping. “Our travel advice already states terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. This remains our assessment.”

The FCO declined to give details on the kidnapping.

A spokesman for the Hawks, Lloyd Ramovha, said two suspects were arrested in connection with the kidnapping of the British couple.

Police have not identified the couple, who live in Cape Town. They were kidnapped in Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, Ramovha said. Police were still investigating why they travelled there.
“The couple are still missing at this stage. No ransom has been demanded. Our investigation so far has not revealed any links to terrorists, let alone ISIL,” Ramovha said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
“Besides South Africa has measures to counter terrorist threats. We are more than ready to deal with such.”
“The car the couple was driving in was found and is now undergoing forensic tests,” he said.

The couple, a 74-year-old man who moved from Britain to South Africa in the 1970s and his South African-born wife (63) have British and South African nationalities.

Security officials and experts say there are no known Islamist militant groups operating in South Africa, where Muslims make up less than two percent of the population.

The FCO said terrorists were likely to attempt attacks in shopping areas in major cities and said news reports suggest a number of South African nationals travelled to Syria, Iraq and Libya and were likely to pose a security threat on their return.

Jasmine Opperman, director of Southern Africa Operations at the Terrorism, Research and Analysis Consortium think tank, said the British alert was “alarmist”.
“South Africa’s vulnerability for attack is there, but are there solid indications of attacks now as we sit here? There are none,” she said in an interview with eNCA.