Cape Town, South Africa.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In June, the United States and Britain issued travel advisory alerts about visiting South Africa. To many South Africans they were, to say the least, surprising, but the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the Community Security Organization (CSO) took it seriously.
The board sent around a community notice: “The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and CSO note that The Hawks [the elite force of the SA Police] have arrested four terror suspects on charges of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism Act. We also note that included in the alleged targets were Jewish installations. Terrorism is a global challenge that affects many countries including our own. We appreciate efforts by our authorities to monitor and prevent incidents of terrorism.
“The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and CSO will continue to monitor the current situation and asks that all members of the Community continue their vigilance and report any suspicious activity to the CSO immediately.”
This followed prolonged investigations by The Hawks and state security units into possible terrorism-related activities in the Johannesburg area. A police spokesman said, “investigations showed that there is the intention to join [Islamic State].” Several items were seized for analysis. The spokesman continued, “This is a big step forward in the fight against terrorism. Terrorist organizations are recruiting in South Africa. The authorities would remain on high alert.”
For some time there has been unsubstantial rumors that Islamic State (ISIS) were training in Cape Town and surrounding districts. There is a large Muslim population in that area. Almost 1,800,000 Muslims live in South Africa, mostly in Cape Town and Durban. This is the first time that there has been any official admission of terrorist activity here.
On Monday, July 11, two suspects appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. They were twin brothers, Brandon-lee and Tony-lee Thulsie, 24 years of age. They faced three charges of terrorism.
“They allegedly conspired to commit the crime of terrorist explosions at US missions and Jewish institutions. Also they had conspired to leave South Africa and join [ISIS] in Syria.”
Social media searches revealed that Brandon-lee had displayed Islamic script and also an image of an ISIS fighter. He had converted to Islam last year from Christianity. According to family and friends the twins had never shown any such inclinations. They were shocked by the developments.
In the court their case was postponed until July 19, when they would apply for bail.
The newspapers on Tuesday showed scanty reports of the case, even though one paper had it on the front page (mostly photos). There is an election pending in two weeks for metropolitan candidates and that was, unsurprisingly, the main story. The three local TV stations did not mention the court appearance although one had a minimum report in the moving strip below the visuals about the coming elections.
The other two arrested were believed to be a brother and sister also in their early twenties They were charged with being in possession of explosives, ammunition and arms. The brother is actually a police reservist. They will appear in court next Monday. Meanwhile they have posted bail.
Their family is devastated by the news.
The police said that “lone wolf” terrorists are an enormous threat. Nothing new in that. The Jewish Board have heightened security around Jewish installations. At the moment that is all that they can actually do.