UK issues terror warning for South Africa but Pretoria thumbs down alert

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The United Kingdom (UK) embassy issued a terrorism alert for South Africa and its citizens who are in or planning to travel to South Africa; however, Pretoria says it’s waiting for the foreign office to provide credible proof, which it has failed to do.

Published on its official website, the UK embassy warned, “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa”.

It added that the main threat is from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh (ISIS), and who may carry out ‘lone actor’ attacks.

“Attacks could be indiscriminate and could target public spaces and places visited by locals and foreigners,” it said.

The alert advised British citizens to avoid crowds and densely populated areas, such as: tourist sites, shopping centres and high profile events

The embassy noted that the current conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has led to heightened tensions around the world.

“Terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida and Daesh, have called on their supporters to carry out terrorist attacks in response to the conflict, and this could motivate individuals to carry out attacks,” it said.

BusinessTech asked South Africa’s State Security Agency and DIRCO for comments regarding the alert but did not receive a response.

However, News24 managed to get a response from International Relations director-general Zane Dangor, who rubbished the alert, calling it unfounded with no evidence.

According to terrorism expert Willem Els at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), these types of alerts originate from intelligence reports, which should then be communicated and discussed with the relevant authorities of both countries.

Following consultations, both parties then have the autonomy to decide whether it’s credible enough to issue an alert, which the UK decided it was in this case.

However, Dangor said the UK had failed to follow diplomatic channels to communicate concerns and has not provided proof for these “unfounded” allegations.

“We asked them where this credible threat came from, and they still have not given us a proper explanation.

“There is no evidence why we would be a target for a terror attack, and we are saying if you have credible information, give it to us, which they have not done,” said Dangor.

Experts are divided on the UK’s warning. Some say it’s nothing to be worried about, while others see some validity to the alarm.

Els noted that he isn’t too surprised at the alert, given the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) greylisting of South Africa and the red flags surrounding the growing notion that the country is a hub for terror financing.

“South Africa has a lot of these terror groups operating in the country, and we don’t seem to bother them a lot as they manipulate and use our systems to fund their operations in Africa,” he said.

This alert issued by the UK seems to be similar to the various Western embassy warnings issued last year following the US alert in October 2022 that terrorist attacks might take place in Sandton.

The South African government acknowledged the US alert but said there was no information pointing to evidence of a credible threat.

The government has previously stated it would urgently inform South Africans of any immediate threats should the need arise. – BusinessTech