Tuesday, April 07, 2015

07-Apr-15: In South Africa, they're pondering how children are converted into murdering terrorists

South Africa's Minister of State Security
From an Associated Press report published today:
South African security authorities say a teenager was taken off an airline flight because the 15-year-old girl was suspected to be leaving her home in Cape Town to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria... [T]he girl has been returned to her family's care... the State Security department was investigating how the teenager had paid for the flight and how she may have been recruited. [AP, April 7, 2015]
Now here are extracts of some slightly fuller background as investigated by a South African news channel ["ISIS is here", and also "How 15-year-old SA girl was recruited by ISIS", published today, April 7, 2015]:
As details emerged about how the Kenwyn teenager was recruited through social media, the State Security Department last night said there had been other "possible recruitments". Brian Dube, spokesman for State Security Minister David Mahlobo, told The Times: "This is not the first case to come to the fore that we are currently investigating. "We have been picking up information about other possible recruitments in this country." He refused to identify other recruits...
[T]he teenager, whose mother is a medical doctor, was missing when she failed to answer her grandparents' call for her to come to breakfast. She had left the house after locking her bedroom door and escaping through a window, reportedly leaving behind documents linking her to Islamic State. It was initially thought by the police that she was a runaway and the family were turned away by Landsowne police, who told them, in contravention of police procedure, that they had to wait 24 hours before reporting her missing...
The entire family is being questioned by State Security to establish exactly how the girl, who lives in a neighbourhood of both Christians and Muslims, was recruited by IS and what her role was to be. Neighbours said many youths in the neighbourhood had been recruited... The girl, who cannot be named, was released into her parents' custody... The family of the girl, who lives in a modest double-storey house, refused to comment...
A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "There are a number of radical Muslims in the area, some of whom are extremists. But most of the Muslims here are moderates."
The girl was found aboard the BA aircraft, with a ticket to Saudia [sic] Arabia, moments before it was due to lift off for Johannesburg...
Her family, however, told Crime Line that she was active on social media. One of her last tweets, posted in 2012 read: "When Muslims are massacred daily, it's nothing, as soon as one Jew is killed, the whole world wants 'justice' i#PrayForGaza."
...Some reports suggest that up to 200 South Africans have been recruited. In February, The Times reported the UN Security Council's warning that about 11 international terrorists were considering using South Africa as a base. The UN said the 11 were linked to al-Qaeda and IS. Muslim Judicial Council spokesman Nabeweya Malick worried about teens falling prey to IS. "We need to find out who is involved."
Indeed we do. But not everyone sees it as a major concern.

For instance, there's this follow-up report ["SA is safe from terrorism: Mahlobo"] from South Africa's state broadcaster, published only this morning:
State Security Minister David Mahlobo has assured South Africans that they are safe from any form of terrorism. This after a 15-year-old school girl from Cape Town was taken off a flight to Johannesburg by police who suspected that she was going to board an international flight to join the Islamic State... He says terrorism is a worldwide problem, but security officials in the country are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of South Africans. "It doesn’t mean there are terrorists in South Africa, but the use of social networks and technology is a challenge. They are using technology to attract children. But we know our security cluster officials in this country are working tirelessly to ensure our people are safe. People must calm down. There are no terrorists in the country."
Actually the minister says much more in the video version of the interview embedded below.

The interviewer points out, before turning to the minister, that it's clear ISIS's recruitment drive is extensive, South Africa is not immune and the terrorists are making real inroads. What do we know, she asks reasonably, about the modus operandi of these people? How prevalent is recruitment in South Africa? If it can reach a fifteen year-old, there must be face-to-face interaction, she says. If a youngster is going to travel by plane, there must have been an adult in the story. 

Not so, says the politician. "They are trying to recruit people without putting their foot in the country." He says it's all about what he calls "access to gadgets and technology... Our biggest challenge is cyberspace... social platforms... The state alone cannot deal with this alone; we need the support of the parents... Let's not be more overstating the issue... They are trying to work on the minds of unsuspecting young people... the vulnerabilities of various communities in terms of unemployment, inequalities... using ideology for one reason or another..."

We don't know South Africa well. But we take off our hat to the self-confident Minister of State Security and his ability to explain the hottest story of today without once mentioning Islam, Islamism, or jihad. Nor does he refer to South African media reports from February 2015 ["Is this the first South African fighting for the ISIS?", Daily Maverick, February 22, 2015] profiling Abu Hurayra Al-Afriki who also "refers to himself as al-Hindi, ‘the Indian’, suggesting that he is a South African of Indian origin" [source].

As for whether the South African security apparatus is going to find practitioners, promoters and/or recruiters actively serving the terrorist cause, this might be hard to do if the agents know success will mean contradicting the brash senior politician in charge of their careers.

On the other hand... Just four weeks ago, the South African media carried reports - like this and this - warning about
11 international terrorists who may consider South Africa their safe haven. The 11, including two terrorist organisations, have been labelled by the United Nations Security Council as being directly linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) of Iraq and Syria. South African authorities have been instructed to be on the lookout for them. This week, the Presidency published a proclamation in the government gazette listing the 11 people and groups, identified as financiers, recruiters and logistics supporters, from France, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq... South Africa has been used as a base for terror activities in the past. Hussein Solomon, a senior professor at the University of Free State’s political studies department, said South Africa had played a key role in global terror networks since the 1990s. “Al-Qaeda has had a presence here since 1997. “By 1995, there were five Hezbollah camps in South Africa. The list of the who’s who of the terrorism zoo in South Africa goes on and on.” Solomon said that in 1999 the FBI had arrested a man at Cape Town International Airport for the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. “The 2007 London bombers got their orders to launch their attack from a terror cell in Johannesburg.” More recently, he said, during the 2010 Fifa World Cup an al-Shabaab terrorist attack against US and UK teams and supporters, to be launched from Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township by Somalis, was foiled. “It was foiled after a cellphone call from South Africa was intercepted by US authorities monitoring al-Shabaab in Somalia.” Solomon said when Osama bin Laden was killed, documents penned by him were found in his Abottabad compound authorising operations to be conducted in South Africa because it was an “open country”. “The attack on Kenya’s Westgate Mall, organised by UK national Samantha Lewthwaite – the White Widow – who used a South African passport, has brought huge pressure on our government.” ...Explaining why South Africa was a viable base for terror groups, Solomon said the country’s high corruption levels and ease at which passports and identity documents could be obtained were motivating factors... He said the country’s intelligence agencies were focusing their resources on journalists and tender scandals instead of targeting terror groups. [HeraldLIVE South Africa, February 20, 2015]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a question... why was the girl "who may not be named" tweet quoted directly? This will allow anyone with access to google, to just search for the tweet which will then expose her identity?