South Africa denies World Cup terror threat

15Jan

South Africa faces a high risk of a World Cup terror attack, a Sunday newspaper reported, but intelligence and security authorities ruled out any threat less than two weeks ahead of kick-off.

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The Sunday Times cited a briefing to the US Congress counter-terrorism caucus last week by the NEFA Foundation, a terror research group, which warned that simultaneous and random attacks were being planned during the tournament.

“I believe there is an 80 percent chance of an attack,” the foundation’s Ronald Sandee told the newspaper.

A South African state security ministry spokesman on Sunday said authorities had uncovered no threat to the 64-match tournament which starts on June 11.

“As far as we’re concerned there are no threats that we have identified which are linked to the World Cup,” spokesman Brian Dube told AFP.

“No country is immune to these things, that’s why we say we’ll continue to be vigilant. But really there isn’t any threat to the World Cup itself.”

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) which is coordinating World Cup security, also dismissed the article, saying it was “riddled with inaccuracies” and that it mostly relied on unnamed sources.

NEFA warned of Pakistani and Somali militant training camps in neighbouring Mozambique and said trainees may have crossed into South Africa to join or set up cells to plan attacks.

The Mozambique camps, the presence of operatives including Al-Qaeda as well as the existence of terror strike cells were confirmed by other sources, the Sunday Times said.

World Cup attacks were referred to in closed-frequency radio broadcasts and telephone intercepts in Mauritania, Algeria, Mali, Pakistan and Yemen, Sandee is reported as telling Congress.

“Information confirms that several venues will be targeted, some simultaneously, others at random. Reference is also made to the possibility of a kamikaze-type attack,” he is quoted as saying.

On Tuesday, the United States warned that large events like the World Cup could present attractive targets for terrorists, but that no specific or credible threat was known.

“There is a heightened risk that extremist groups will conduct terrorist acts within South Africa in the near future,” it said in a travel alert.

On Sunday, a NATJOINTS statement denied the existence of a watch list of 40 terror suspects and militant training camps in South Africa reported by the newspaper.

“That there is no known specific terror threat against the 2010 FIFA World Cup,” it said.

“All operational plans are on track, teams already in their base camps are moving around and police deployments are increasing.”

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