Isis is real threat in SA - analyst
British couple still missing after believed to have been targeted by two members of an Isis cell in rural KZN
The abduction of a prominent Cape Town couple, allegedly at the hands of a “cell” loyal to terror group Isis, has drawn back the veil on the threat of urban terror.
The couple, whose names are known to Times Select but have been withheld for security reasons, are thought to have been kidnapped two weeks ago.
Police, as well as local and international intelligence agencies, have mounted a search for the pair, both botanists, but no trace of the elderly husband and wife has been found.
Fatima Patel and Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, held on a raft of criminal and terrorism-related charges, are accused of siphoning over R700,000 from bank accounts belonging to the missing couple.
The pair is alleged to have used credit cards and hopped from mall to mall along the north coast amassing a cache of jewellery, camping gear and electronic devices, which was discovered in a remote hideaway on the fringes of a secluded nature reserve near Eshowe.Political scientist Dr Hussein Solomon said the South African government had done “precious little” to monitor the local threat of terror groups.
“After Raqqa fell, Isis said to their loyalists who came from 90 countries: ‘Do your stuff there, not here,’ and that is what has happened. We know that there are anywhere between 180 -300 Isis fighters who returned home to South Africa,” he said.
“The South African intelligence services have ignored the problem. Just because we were not the ones going to Iraq or Afghanistan doesn’t make us safe.”
He said that the State Security Agency had been occupied with other tasks and had become politicised.
With regard to the missing Britons, he said that a travel advisory by the British government warning against South Africa would not have been issued without substance.
“The British would not put that out unless there was a credible threat and they are taking it seriously and there is some form of co-operation taking place between them and local authorities.”
“What makes South Africa susceptible [to terror groups] is that our intelligence services are not up to scratch. Their capabilities have waned during the Zuma era. There are a number of groups operating on this soil and using this country as a safe house, and to raise funds.”Faisal Suliman, of the South African Muslim Network, had an opposing view, insisting that the travel advisory issued by the British government was premature and disingenuous.
“The negative impact of loud and wild claims on tourism and investment at a time when we need it desperately is huge. There is also a huge and growing Muslim tourism demographic whose rand spend per capita is very high who will also be discouraged to tour our country if it is seen as either dangerous or unfriendly to Muslims,” he said.
“The impact on local Muslims, the overwhelming number of whom have nothing but disgust and abhorrence for the violence that has been carried out purportedly by Isis, is growing Islamaphobia and its subtle and overt effects,” Suliman added.
He said that it would be difficult for any terrorist organisation to gain a footprint among South African Muslims.
“This is because there is no support for it; nor will they be sheltered by the community. Online recruitment needs a fertile ground ... Most Muslims here are not susceptible to this thanks to the Islamic education system we have,” he added.The suspects, Del Vecchio, 38, and Patel, 27, remain at the centre of the search for the British couple. The two, who appeared in the Vryheid Magistrate’s Court on Monday, face charges related to terrorism, abduction and possibly murder.
Patel was previously arrested – with her brother Ebrahim – in Azaadville on the West Rand by the Hawks during anti-terrorism raids in July 2016. Also arrested at the time were twin brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, accused of planning terrorist attacks at the behest of the Islamic State.
Patel had been out on bail after her arrest in 2016. When police raided the property in Azaadville, police seized 20 rounds of ammunition and a stun grenade.
The British nationals, who live in Cape Town, are understood to have left their home on February 5 on a driving tour of the Free State and the northern expanses of KwaZulu-Natal.
How their paths crossed with the couple remains shrouded in mystery, as police scramble to decode the days and hours between the time the well-known botanists left Cape Town and the time they were last seen.