ISIS could inspire ‘lone wolf’ attack in SA

  • Soldiers
The terror organisation ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has warned South Africa not to go to Mozambique’s aid in response to the vicious attacks its armed fighters have been carrying out against civilians in the north-eastern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado since 2017.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jul 09, 2020

ISIS made this warning in a newsletter to its followers, and a local terror expert believes it could potentially inspire a “lone wolf” attack within our borders.

Jasmine Opperman, a terrorism analyst at The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), says, “What we are left with now is an echo chamber of propaganda from ISIS trying to inspire attacks within South Africa’s borders, which leaves the question: are we in a position to protect South Africans citizens on home soil if we are going to be confronted with a lone wolf attack?

“This question must be answered by the government security sector as a matter of urgency,” she says.

She is part of ACLED’s Cabo Ligado project in partnership with Zitamar News, Mediafax, and the International Crisis Group, which monitors political violence in Mozambique.

The ISIS letter reads, “Before the Crusader states in Europe and America decide to send their forces there [Mozambique] and make that area a new field for the war on the Islamic State ... they are trying today to get the South Africa government and its army involved in leading the war there, because of its proximity and strong relations with the Mozambique government.”

It went on to say, “But South Africa has enough internal problems to push it towards getting involved in this war that will place it in a great financial, security, and military predicament, and may result in prompting [causing a hastening of] the soldiers of the Islamic State to open a fighting front inside its borders! By the permission of G-d Almighty.”

A high-level meeting in May of the security body of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) pledged assistance for government efforts to eliminate the threat.

“On 26 June, the SADC made progress toward agreement on an assistance package for Mozambique to address the Cabo Delgado conflict that would include provisions for military deployments from some member countries,” says Opperman.

“Details are sparse, but the agreement would be tangible progress toward greater regional involvement in the conflict. The deployments themselves, however, may be mere window dressing, as one SADC expert pointed out. SADC has no in-house capacity or budget to organise military interventions, and the Mozambican government itself has been reluctant to allow troops under foreign control into the conflict zone and has been dragging its feet.”

“South Africa is already involved in the conflict through its Dyck Advisory Group,” Opperman says. “This is a private military consulting group [known as mercenaries], based in Cape Town. It’s involved in counter-terrorism operations in Mozambique, supporting the Mozambique government by means of air support.”

Furthermore, according to defenceWeb, the South African National Conventional Arms Control Committee has approved the supply of weapons to Mozambique, according to a report tabled at a meeting of parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence at the end of June by committee chair Jackson Mthembu, the minister in the presidency.

Mthembu confirmed that South Africa supplied weapons to Mozambique, but didn’t disclose what they were or the quantities. “We couldn’t say no to Mozambique as it’s a legitimate government under attack by terrorists,” he said, referring to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province.

“It may not be long before the power of the Islamic State threat toward other countries in the region is tested,” says Opperman. She pointed out that ISIS doesn’t make a distinction between the Dyck Advisory Group and South Africa as a whole. “South Africa’s involvement is only likely to expand, and that has consequences.

“For the first time in southern Africa, we have Islamic State in its most violent form. We need to acknowledge this. We need an intelligence service that can put it into context and assist the government in understanding the implications of Islamic State for South Africa.”

Senior Training Co-ordinator at the Institute for Security Studies, Willem Els, says that people become radicalised when they feel neglected and have nothing to lose, and conditions are conducive in South Africa for ordinary citizens to take up the call of ISIS.

“The more desperate people become, the easier it is for them to be recruited. Government needs to be very careful in preventing this,” Els says.

ISIS doesn’t “send official notice” of such threats, but uses social media to make attacks happen, he says. It has made such threats to other countries and attacks have taken place. “It’s credible, and South Africa would be unwise not to prepare. The threat is there if South Africa gets further involved [in Mozambique].

“SADC [members] should assist each other as a collective in pushing back militant forces,” says Darren Bergman, the Democratic Alliance shadow minister of international relations and cooperation. “Timing currently favours the opportunists [terrorists exploiting the climate]. It’s at a time like this that you hope bodies established to lobby on behalf of minorities are awake and vigilant.

“South Africa has crime statistics that terrorism might not dent, but it’s important to understand that this sort of terrorism isn’t specific to any community, it could affect many communities. The name of the game here would be awareness, vigilance, and community networks.”

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