Clear connection exposed between international ISIS and SA
Botanists Rodney and Rachel Saunders of Cape Town were searching for rare seeds in Vryheid when they went missing in February. Their bodies were found months later, and four people were arrested in South Africa and remain in custody. An amount of R700 000 was taken from the Saunders’ bank accounts after their disappearance. Jewellery‚ electronics, and camping gear were also bought using their stolen credit cards.
The international suspect, known as “Mohammed G”, appeared in the Rotterdam District Court after he was accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation, and had tried to purchase Bitcoins using Rachel’s credit card details, according to Dutch news network NOS. He also had the contact of the highest ranking ISIS spokesperson on the African continent, Mohammed Abdi Ali, in his possession. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also reported that Ali had received instructions from ISIS leadership in Syria.
NOS reported that Mohammed G was familiar with two of the South African suspects, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel, previously implicated in the kidnapping of the Saunders.
Local terrorism expert Jasmine Opperman confirmed to the SA Jewish Report that the man’s full name was Mohammed Ghorshid, and that he had been in contact with the Saunders’ kidnapping suspects for some time. “The four intended to set up a training camp in Somalia, and in 2015, Ghorshid discussed with the South Africans plans to lure European women under the pretext of a free holiday in Libya, and then sell them to Islamic State territory on the slave market,” she says.
“The presence of Islamic State loyalists on South African soil cannot be denied, and looking at the kidnappers, indicators point to a ‘wannabe’ category. The ‘wannabe’ seeks instantaneous recognition, credentials, and sometimes redemption,” she said.
“The ‘wannabe’ might have missed out on a life in the caliphate, or training camp in Yemen or Somalia, but just because he/she is untrained, do not assume that he/she is not dangerous. This new type of fighter does not need an in-depth, lengthy, religious radicalisation process. This is a frustrated fighter who is caught up in a mixture of personal problems, criminality, and grievances, and is offered a quick solution to redemption. This is a person that will gain recognition as a fighter simply by executing an attack. A medal of honour is offered via martyrdom,” she said.
“The tip of the iceberg has been exposed. I think more is going on behind the scenes,” said Willem Els, Senior Training Co-ordinator at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. “The Dutch police have been working on this for some time. It seems that the objective of the whole exercise was [for the terrorists] to exploit the couple and use their money to further fund their extremist objectives.
“It is known that these people do buy Bitcoins and use them to move funds for operations. Patel was arrested with the Thulsie twins, and then engaged Del Vecchio, who hails from a very influential and affluent Italian family. Then, there was the Kenyan and the Malawian connection… This is a truly international affair,” Els said.
“Should we, and more particularly the Jewish community, be worried? Del Vecchio and Patel were under surveillance when they did a recce [surveillance] on the King Shaka International Airport in Durban, indicating that it might be the target of an attack.
“The Thulsies did recces at the United States, British, Israeli, and Russian embassies, indicating their preferred targets. These radicals are not eager to lodge attacks in South Africa because they have relatively free reign here due to a lack of political will, recourse, and capacity of the police to act against them. Should they lodge an attack, they will become the target of an investigation, risking their relative freedom.
“We believe that should they decide on an attack, it will probably be [directed at] a foreign institution, and not South African interests. We do not have a lot to work with, but we make this deduction based on the limited information that is available,” he said.
“If the information is correct, it provides further proof that what we are seeing in South Africa is a co-ordinated effort to recruit and inspire people to carry out acts of terror. Remember, Fatima Patel was originally arrested at the same time as the Thulsie twins,” said Jevon Greenblatt, the Director of Operations of the Community Security Organisation (CSO) in Gauteng.
“The facts that have emerged do not surprise me. It doesn’t change what we do, or how we do it. Obviously, we have to adapt to a changing environment, but the fundamentals remain the same and have proven to be effective,” he said, regarding the CSO’s work.
“Both in South Africa and across the globe, there are clear links between home-grown extremists and the phenomenon of global radical Islam, which we are constantly monitoring, and is of great concern to us. Terrorism and anti-Semitism have become a feature of modern life. While the South African Jewish community has been spared the full brunt of a successful terrorist attack, it is important to remember that we are not immune. Every community member needs to take responsibility for themselves and those around them. Radical extremism is growing day by day, and it is irresponsible to ignore it,” he said.
“Preparation is key, and the best time to prepare is now, before an incident occurs. The more proactive we are, the greater our chances of preventing or dealing with it. This applies to all South Africans, not just our community.”
Greenblatt concluded: “Kidnapping and organised crime are common methods used by terror organisations to raise funds, although in this context, kidnapping is still relatively uncommon in South Africa. What we are seeing is a symptom of the rampant crime and lawlessness plaguing our country. Unfortunately, this is the type of environment in which terrorism and terror organisations thrive.”