UK govt warns of terror threat in SA following kidnapping arrests in KZN

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Usama  The British government has warned its citizens that there is a terror threat from extremists linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in South Africa.

This after a couple were apparently kidnapped in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this month in a case allegedly linked to terrorism.

The UK government’s website, under foreign travel advice relating to SA, updated its “terrorism section” on Monday. This update was still deemed relevant on Wednesday.

“Updated information on the terrorist threat from extremists linked to Daesh… there’s an increasing threat of kidnap throughout South Africa; kidnaps can be for financial gain or motivated by criminality; British nationals can be perceived as being wealthier than locals and may be at particular risk of kidnap for financial gain,” it says.

Daesh is another name for ISIS.

A couple, with both South African and British citizenship, were apparently kidnapped at or near the near Bivane Dam in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal, on February 12.

The identities of the two have not been made public.

More ‘terror’ arrests expected

On Tuesday, the Hawks announced that its Crimes Against the State Unit – along with other authorities, including the Durban police’s Crime Intelligence division – had identified two suspects in the kidnapping case on February 16.

They two – Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 38, and Fatima Patel, 27 – were then arrested in connection with the case.

Charges against them include kidnapping, or robbery, as well as the possible contravention of the Protection Constitutional Democracy against Terrorists and Other Related Activities Act.

More arrests were expected.

Patel was previously arrested in another terrorism-related case.

Another section on the UK government’s website, under the heading “terrorism”, said: “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities.”

‘The main threat is from extremists’

“The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). In February 2018, two South African-British nationals were kidnapped,” says the website.

This post said news reports suggested that several South Africans had travelled to Syria, Iraq and Libya.

“They are likely to pose a security threat on their return. There’s also a threat from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, to carry out so called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places including where foreigners may gather.”

The post said South African authorities had previously disrupted planned attacks.

On Tuesday, Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha said a full scale investigation had been launched into the couple believed to have been kidnapped.

He said Del Vicchio and Patel had appeared in the Vryheid Magistrate’s Court on Monday and were expected to appear there again on March 1.

Torched sugar cane fields

Aside from the kidnapping, or possible robbery charge, the duo also faced an arson charge for allegedly torching and destroying hectares of sugar cane fields in 2017.

Ramovha said R2m worth of damage was caused.

“The Hawks are exploring all lines of inquiry and cannot comment further while the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Patel and her brother, Ebrahim Patel, were previously arrested at their home in Azaadville in 2016 during police raids on the West Rand.

These raids also led to the arrest of Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie.

It has been alleged that the twins were linked to the ISIS group.

According to the charge sheet in the case, they were allegedly planning to detonate explosives at a US embassy and Jewish institutions in South Africa.

Last week, in another unrelated case, Usama Hamade, 53, also known as Prince Sam, and his brother Issam Hamade, 55, also known as Tony, who are both Lebanese citizens, were arrested in Johannesburg.

The US has accused them of illegally exporting items to Hezbollah, which it classifies as a terrorist organisation.

A third suspect, Samir Ahmed Berro, 64, who has Lebanese and British citizenship, is yet to be arrested.

According to the indictment in this case, a person identified simply as Individual A, a South African citizen and resident, apparently unwittingly ordered components which can be used in drones and jets, some of which arrived in the country, but which were then allegedly sent to Hezbollah co-conspirators in Lebanon.

News24