South Africa in the Islamic terrorists’ cross-hairs

  • Thulsie
It has long been presumed that it was unofficial but de facto government policy to turn a blind eye to the fact that South Africa has been host to Islamic fundamentalist terrorist training camps as well as being a transit point - in return for immunity from attack. But all of that came crashing down last week with the revelations that two brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie were arrested by the Hawks in the advanced stages of planning an attack on US and Jewish targets in South Africa.
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Jul 20, 2016

Pictured: Brandon-Lee andTony-Lee Thulsie CREDIT: Facebook


The Hawks who had been watching the twins, swooped down on them to avert an imminent ISIS-inspired attack on South Africa.

In 2015 Peter Fabricius, foreign policy expert of the Independent Media Group, wrote: “The revelations in the secret State Security Agency (SSA) reports leaked to Al Jazeera should finally dispel any illusions that might still remain that South Africa is safe from attack by groups such as al-Qaida because our government has the correct international stance.” Apparently Fabricius was right. South Africa is no longer immune to Islamic terror.

According to Fabricius, “Documents written in 2012 reveal that the SSA, working with secret services of other countries, foiled at least two al-Qaida/al-Shabaab suicide bomb attacks in South Africa between 2007 and 2010. One target was a Jewish centre in Cape Town. Another of the attacks was also aimed at a conference it seems, though whether that was also a Jewish event is not clear.”

Iraqi Ambassador to South Africa Hashim al-Alawi told Fox News in 2015 that between 60 and 300 South Africans were believed to be fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In April of this year, according to the Times Media Group, Bilal Cajee from Vereeniging was the fourth South African killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS.

The charge sheet presented by prosecutors against the Thulsie twins revealed that “the accused unlawfully and intentionally conspired to commit the crime of terrorism by planning to cause explosions at a mission of the United States of America and Jewish institutions (all such structures located in the Republic of South Africa) in order to endanger life, cause death and/or serious bodily harm and the destruction... to such structures…”

The charges of terrorism being brought against the “Terror Twins” should come as no surprise. South Africa has long been in the cross-hairs of the Islamic Jihadist movement. Only careful intelligence and behind the scenes inter-governmental co-operation has prevented previous attacks.

The website almanac.afpc.org reports that “since the late 1990s, al-Qaida has used South Africa as both a physical safe haven and a conduit of support”. It states further that, in 2004, a leaked US Central Intelligence Agency report stated that “[a] new tier of al-Qaida leaders is using South Africa as one of its bases”, with as many as 30 of the organisation’s leaders “thought to be in and around Cape Town, Durban and the Eastern Cape”.

Al-Qaida operations in South Africa were meticulously documented by De Wet Potgieter in his book, “Black Widow White Widow”, a must read for anyone interested in the topic.

Reports Almanac.afpc.org: “Al-Qaida operatives have been apprehended in South Africa several times in recent years. Ahead of South Africa’s 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections, the country’s police commissioner announced that authorities had arrested and deported several individuals linked to the bin Laden network. The actions led to subsequent raids and arrests in Jordan, Syria, and Great Britain.”

The terror warnings issued by the American and British governments during the Muslim festival of Ramadan this year were not the first for South Africa.

In September 2009, the US government closed its facilities across South Africa after it received credible threats and nearly two years ago the South African Jewish community went on lock-down after receiving threats against its safety.  

Information about the threats of Islamic groups to South Africa periodically leak to the media. Saajid Muhammad Badat who was sentenced to 13 years for an airline bomb plot in 2005, gave evidence to a US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York. He revealed that that he had planned attacks against Jewish targets in South Africa on behalf of al-Qaida and travelled to Belgium to meet with a potential suicide “martyr”.

He said that he met Osama bin Laden on more than one occasion and also met with Abu Hafs al Masri, bin Laden’s number two. Al Masri had instructed him to carry out an operation which involved naming potential Jewish targets al-Qaida could attack in South Africa. Luckily he had difficulty recruiting a “martyr” and his plans failed.

When the US Navy Seals raided al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound in Pakistan, they seized a large volume of documents, some of which have subsequently been released by the Combating Terrorism Centre of the US Military Academy.

Frighteningly, from a South African perspective, was the revelation that bin Laden thought of South Africa as an open territory - an area where al-Qaida operatives could target Americans.

“You may find it suitable to target Americans in South Africa, because it is located outside the Islamic Maghreb. Also, South Africa is not covered by the brothers who are located outside that region. The same can be said about other African countries.”

The issue of South Africa as an operational base and a transit conduit for international jihadist groups also emerged in the court case of a Tunisian al-Qaida suspect Ihsan Garnaoui in 2004.

Garnaoui was an explosives expert. He held several South African passports in different names and travelled via South Africa to Europe where he was accused of plotting bombings on American and Jewish targets. According to Dutch counterterrorism expert Ronald Sandee, most of Garnaoui’s preparation for these attacks took place in South Africa.

In 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also revealed never-before published information of a foiled terror attack on an Israeli target in South Africa. He said that an attack against Israelis was prevented in South Africa, but did not disclose any further details.

Whether France or Nigeria, Britain or Belgium, Israel or Kenya, America or Libya, the world has had to come to grips with the new reality of Islamic jihadist terror - and now South Africa stares that new reality directly in its cold and murderous eyes.


  • The Thulsie twins' anticipated bail hearing on Tuesday was postponed by agreement with prosecutors and their lawyers until next week
  • The Patel siblings' bail hearing planned for Monday also never took place as the two, who were only charged for weapons offenses, went to the High Court last week where they were granted bail. 

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