DHA probing al Qaeda passport report

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The Department of Home Affairs says it is probing media reports that the suspected head of al-Qaeda in East Africa, Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, was in possession of a South African passport when killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, a week ago.

“The department is in liaison with the relevant roleplayers to ascertain the veracity of these reports,” Home Affairs said in a statement. “Should the results of our investigation into the matter prove to be true, those implicated will be brought to book and will have to face disciplinary measures.”

Mohammad was shot dead by Somali government forces at a roadblock in Mogadishu last week Tuesday. He was reportedly carrying a South African passport under the name Daniel Robinson – and the passport had a recent exit stamp from South Africa, the Independent Group newspapers reported yesterday. The department is also seeking to confirm Mohammad had recently been in South Africa until March 19.

Mohammed was the alleged mastermind of the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and was also suspected of plotting the Kampala bombings a year ago by al-Shabaab, a Somali affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Opposition Democratic Alliance party Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Annette Lovemore said passport and identity fraud continued “to pervade the Department of Home Affairs, and it is of deep concern that the failings of this department may be helping to facilitate international terrorist activity.
“This is not the first time that a terror suspect has been found to be in possession of a South African passport,” Lovemore added. “In 2004, a Tunisian al-Qaeda suspect, Ihsan Garnaoui, told German investigators that he had a number of South African passports. British-born Haroon Rashid Aswat, supposed ringleader of the 2005 London bus bombings, lived in South Africa and travelled to the United Kingdom on a South African passport. In 2006, Mohammed Gulzar entered Britain with a fake South African passport under the name Altaf Ravat, allegedly with the intent of blowing up transatlantic airliners in mid-flight.”



The Freedom Front Plus party said government needed to fix South Africa’s reputation for fake travel documents. “Every now and then one or other criminal appears somewhere in the world with a South African passport,” said FF Plus spokesman Corne Mulder.
“There is a great responsibility on the … government to repair the reputation of South African travel documents. Stricter border control is necessary because under the ANC [governing African National Congress], South Africa has become the hiding place for every second fugitive and crook.”