State Security Minister David Mahlobo said the weekend terror alert issued by the US Embassy – part of standard US government precautionary communications – has been noted and there is no need to panic.
The Minister’s reassurance follows a statement by the US Diplomatic Mission to South Africa that the US government was in receipt of information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa.
This, the statement said, included upmarket shopping malls and precincts in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
“This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the month of Ramadan.”
A new moon was sighted on Monday marking the start of the holy month of Ramadan, a time marked by prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts.
Mahlobo said South African security services had liaised with their American counterparts on these concerns and engagements will continue as “part of ongoing work”.
“The security services will continue to work on matters of violent extremism and terrorism, among others, to ensure the safety of all citizens and residents,” he said in a statement.
Ahead of Mahlobo’s statement the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) via its spokesman, Clayson Monyela, is reported to have said South Africa’s security agencies were capable of ensuring residents’ safety. He also noted no incident or attack had taken place when a similar warning was issued by the US Embassy 10 months ago.
Other reports have it that Western Cape premier Helen Zille was briefed by US diplomats following the terror alert announcement.
She reportedly said: “We must always take a warning at this level, a high alert, seriously. The US has strong intelligence and they have passed that onto the South African authorities. I don’t think we should ignore something like this”.
In Gauteng three malls – Eastgate, Menlyn and Sandton City – have upped security.