Now top ‘professional’ ISIS bombers targeting SA
“Our intelligence officials believe Abu wasn’t coming to South Africa to recruit for ISIS,” Iraqi Ambassador Saad Kindeel told the Sunday Times last week, “but to identify a specific target that would later be attacked”.
Shortly before Osama’s arrest, immigration officials at O R Tambo flagged another suspected terrorist, an American citizen, attempting to enter South Africa from Turkey. He was a known ISIS sympathiser but as there was no warrant for his arrest, immigration officials could only put him on a plane back to Turkey.
These twin incidents come in the wake of the arrests of five home-grown suspected ISIS sympathisers last June, at least two of whom, says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were building explosive devices and were caught red-handed with a list of targets. These were all reportedly Jewish institutions, with the exception of one – a US government installation.
These events have sparked concern that SA in general, and SA Jewry specifically, may be facing an increased risk of terror attacks. Many Jewish institutions have upgraded their security.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed this, saying: “We are aware of the two incidents.”
Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba (immigration falls under the department), confirmed to Jewish Report this week that the two recent interceptions, on the Turkish side and the SA side, had taken place.
On the home front the Hawks thwarted a home-grown terror plan last June after receiving tipoffs from various international security services that someone going under the pseudonym “Simba” in SA was trying to acquire explosive detonators – later suspected to be for partially assembled explosive vests found by the Hawks – on the dark web.
The Hawks drew up a short-list of five suspects and obtained search warrants for their homes. Their primary suspects appeared to have been 23-year-old twins, Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, also known as Yaqeen and Salahuddin ibn Hernani respectively, since their conversion to Islam, who live in Newclare, Johannesburg.
The “Terror Twins” as they have been dubbed in the media, and siblings Ibrahim and Fatima Patel, 20 and 24 of Azaadville on the West Rand (whom the Hawks believe the Thulsies recruited) had been nabbed by police in 2015 trying to leave SA to join ISIS in Syria.
But the Hawks’ action plan last June was to initially raid the home of a fifth suspect, Ronaldo Smith (also known as Arashad Smith), who agreed to turn state witness and identified Tony-Lee Thulsie as “Simba”.
Smith was put under police protection, but has since consistently requested to recant his evidence and leave police protection. The NPA, however, has refused to allow this. Should Smith continue to maintain this position, NPA Gauteng spokesman Phindi Louw told Jewish Report he would probably appear in court as a “hostile witness”.
The Hawks in the Thulsies’ homes allegedly found partially-assembled explosive devices and the list of potential targets.
For the past seven months, the Thulsies have been fighting to get bail, which is not an automatic right under the Terrorism Act. The provisional charge sheet alleged that the Thulsies had been planning since October 2015 to “cause explosions at a Mission of the US and Jewish institutions” in SA. This, says the charge sheet, “was intended to cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of SA and, in particular, the US and Jewish sector thereof”.
The NPA, however, do not have access to evidence (such as the list and devices) which is considered so sensitive that it is being retained by the Department of State Security. When asked about the list of targets by Jewish Report this week, State Security spokesman Brian Dube did not deny they were holding it. “Certain material was found in the houses,” he said, and State Security believed it would prove crucial in convicting the Thulsie twins.
The twins were in court on Monday and Tuesday, again trying to secure bail. However, on Tuesday afternoon they abandoned their bail application so they could approach the High Court to seek a review today (Friday) of a ruling that their arrests were lawful.