SA ‘not an Isis tar­get’, says ter­ror ex­pert


A TER­ROR­ISM ex­pert has cau­tioned South Africans not to link iso­lated in­ci­dents to find a big­ger pic­ture.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the AfroMid­dle East Cen­tre in Jo­han­nes­burg, Na’eem Jeenah, was among a panel of speak­ers dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of the Is­lamic State in Syria (Isis) hav­ing a pres­ence in SA.

While he ruled out South Africa be­ing an Isis tar­get, he told those who gath­ered at the Sule­man Lock­hat Au­di­to­rium in Sy­den­ham last Wed­nes­day that one had to as­sess the finer de­tails be­fore ar­riv­ing at a con­clu­sion.

Since 2014, a num­ber of South Africans be­lieved to be linked with the ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion have been detained or ar­rested.

They in­cluded the Thulsie twins, Bran­don-Lee and Tony-Lee, who were ar­rested in July 2016 and charged with con­spir­acy, in­cite­ment to com­mit the crime of ter­ror­ism, and con­spir­ing and at­tempt­ing to com­mit acts as­so­ci­ated with ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties.

Say­fy­deen As­lam Del Vec­chio, 38, and his wife, Fa­tima Pa­tel, 27, al­leged to also have Isis links, have been charged with mur­der­ing Bri­tish botanist Rod Saun­ders, 74, and his wife Rachel, 64.

More re­cently, the case of 11 men from Dur­ban, al­legedly linked to an at­tack at the Iman Hus­sain Mosque in Ot­tawa in May and to var­i­ous in­cen­di­ary de­vices planted in Dur­ban, has raised the Isis ques­tion. All these mat­ters are be­fore court. “The ob­jec­tive of Isis is to tar­get an area, take it, hold it and move on to another tar­get nearby. If you look at their pat­tern, they op­er­ate in Iraq and Syria.

“How­ever, they will go to coun­tries that de­clare war on it, like in Paris, Brussels and Ber­lin. They tar­get within the area of their op­er­a­tion.

“I do not be­lieve South Africa is a tar­get and it has never been a tar­get. It’s the at­ti­tude of peo­ple to cre­ate hys­te­ria that is caus­ing peo­ple to be­lieve we are a tar­get.

“If you look at all the in­ci­dents re­ported, there has been no Isis claim. If you look at the in­ci­dents in Paris and Brussels, they claimed it. The in­struc­tions were given from above to carry out the bomb­ing.

“In South Africa there has been no in­struc­tion from above. Isis works with in­struc­tions and I don’t think they would change their tac­tic to kill a few Shia Mus­lims.”

Jeenah added that the re­cent at­tacks and sub­se­quent ar­rests were more “lone wolf” or “copy­cat” at­tacks that could be con­sid­ered a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of peo­ple’s views of Is­lam.

He told at­ten­dees, that while a num­ber of peo­ple had left the coun­try to fight a cause abroad, in­clud­ing Syria, about 80 to 100 of them had re­turned home. They com­prised young men or fam­i­lies. “Upon their re­turn, they are in­ter­viewed by State Se­cu­rity be­fore be­ing re­leased into their com­mu­ni­ties and I’m al­most def­i­nitely sure they are un­der surveil­lance.”

Oth­ers, who went as fight­ers, he added, were ei­ther dead or in cap­tiv­ity.

Azad See­dat, the founder and chair­per­son at the Ot­tawa mosque, the scene of the mur­der, ar­son and a bomb scare, said an in­ter­faith di­a­logue should be con­vened with the dif­fer­ent sects of Mus­lims.

“Mus­lims must stop call­ing other sects of Mus­lims non-Mus­lim,” he ad­vised.

“Young­sters want to be more in­volved in their re­li­gion and want to ex­press them­selves for the re­li­gion, and in­stead of serv­ing the peo­ple (which they should do), they waste time killing men, women and chil­dren.

“You can­not do that and say you are do­ing ji­had – if you want to show your de­vo­tion to Is­lam, rather help peo­ple than kill peo­ple.” Ji­had is the Ara­bic word mean­ing “holy war”.

Fuzail Soofie, of the Westville Soofie Mosque, said so­cial me­dia in­flu­enced its users to ex­per­i­ment with ex­trem­ist ac­tiv­i­ties.

“As much as we call for the fac­tions in Is­lam to unite, we also have to be cau­tious. We can­not mag­nify the is­sue. We host var­i­ous talks on ex­trem­ism and rad­i­cal­ism at the mosques. How­ever, those who need to get the mes­sage aren’t will­ing to lis­ten.

“They don’t want to lis­ten to the pul­pit of the mosque, but rather lis­ten via so­cial me­dia on YouTube and other in­ter­na­tional sites that could lead them astray.”

Re­tired State Se­cu­rity head of train­ing, Mike Sar­joo, said that there was lit­tle di­a­logue by gov­ern­ment on is­sues like ter­ror­ism.

“Its not that it doesn’t ex­ist, it does. There is a five-year plan that the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Es­ti­mates con­ducts each year that fo­cuses on in­ter­nal is­sues (like cash heists), ex­ter­nal is­sues (out­side fac­tors) and im­ported is­sues (brought into the coun­try by group­ings or in­di­vid­u­als).

“There are trained in­di­vid­u­als who col­lect and an­a­lyse all the fac­tors and they are aware of it. But gov­ern­ment needs to in­clude South Africans in di­a­logue. There is no need to hide (the facts).”

Sar­joo said there had been cases where South Africans had been in­ter­cepted be­fore leav­ing SA to join Isis abroad.


From left: Na’eem Jeenah, Fuzail Soofie of the Westville Soofie Mosque, for­mer State Se­cu­rity em­ployee Mike Sar­joo, and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Im­raan Buc­cas.


Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the au­thor of the cook­book In­dianDe­lights, Zuleikha Mayat, at­tended theevent.

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