Does ISIS pose a real threat in SA?

That is the burning question a panel of experts will be debating – along with public input – when they meet in Durban next week, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.

The appearance of 11 men in the Verulam Magistrates’ Court on allegations that they were part of an ISIS cell that went on a tirade of murder and mayhem, has prompted the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) to host a symposium in Durban next week to establish whether the terror group “really poses a threat in South Africa” – and if so, how to deal with the phenomenon.

Al Qalam newspaper is a co-host of the AMEC symposium that will be held at the Suleman Lockhat Auditorium at 222 Kenilworth Road, Sydenham, on Wednesday, November 28, starting at 7pm.

Speakers include a panel of experts, including Na’eem Jeenah, the executive director of AMEC, Security expert, Mike Sarjoo, Azad Seedat, Chairperson of the Imam Hussein mosque in Ottawa, and Islamic scholar Hafez Fuzail Soofie.

The theme of the symposium is: “South Africa’s ISIS connection?”

The open public discussions on whether ISIS has any tangible footprint in South Africa, comes at a time when the court is currently hearing evidence on whether the alleged ISIS suspects should be given bail or not.

The 11 suspects face allegations that they were co-conspirators in the attack on the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, near Verulam, where a worshipper, Abbas Essop had his throat slit, including a spate of bomb scares at Woolworths stores. Some of the incendiary devices were triggered and caused minor fires which resulted in a number of stores temporarily closing their doors because of anonymous bomb threats.

The accused face charges of murder‚ attempted murder‚ arson‚ extortion and the violation of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

There is uneasiness in the country in light of the involvement by several South Africans being involved in alleged ISIS related activities

Their concern stems from the arrest of several individuals:

  • The case of the Thulsie twins – 23-year-old Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee, who were arrested at their homes in Johannesburg on 9 July, 2016, and who stands accused of planning attacks on Jewish and American interests. However, no evidence of direct ISIS links has been established so far.
  • Alleged ISIS terror Couple Sayfydeen Del Vecchio (38) and Fatima Patel (27) were arrested on 16 February 2018 and face charges of kidnapping, murder and robbery of British botanists, Rodney Saunders (72) and his wife Rachael (68) in the Tugela River They are in custody awaiting trial. A fourth suspect in the case, Malawian national Ahmed Jackson Mussa (36), known as “Bazooka”, was arrested on 22 March 2018. Evidence before the court indicates discussions between Del Vecchio‚ Patel and Mussa of “preparing to kill the kuffar or non-believers. ISIS flag were also found on their remote property in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.  

And now, with the latest case – the arrest of 11 men facing charges under South Africa’s Terrorism Act – there is a frenzied narrative in the country that ISIS may be operating here.

 AMEC believes there should be sober assessment of the narratives. Has ISIS been operating in South Africa in any fashion?  What are its objectives here? Is South Africa really an ISIS target, and If so, why now? These critical questions will be addressed at the symposium.

Jasmine Opperman, director at the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) says however, there is no panic situation.

Writing in the Daily Maverick, Opperman said over-sensitiveness by informing the public on what seems to be insubstantial evidence, and relying on flags and propaganda material, is nothing more “than jumping to conclusions and instilling fear.”

“A middle ground is urgently required to counter stigmatisation and reduce panic. This requires an in-depth understanding of the threat of terrorism, vigorous foreign liaison as well as practiced investigators and analysts. Does South Africa have such capacity? The outcome of the Durban case will speak for itself. The Thulsie case disconcertingly points to the absence of such capacities,” she wrote.

*If you wish to attend this free panel discussion, please RSVP by e-mail: events@amec.org.za or call 011-880 0525

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