By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Experts expressed fear that Daesh might be recruiting in South Africa after prosecutors accused 11 men recently arrested in the city of Durban of having links to the terror group.
Willem Els, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told Anadolu Agency past and present incidents point to the group’s intentions.
“In 2016, a young girl from Cape Town was taken off a flight heading to Turkey where she was going to transit to Syria and join the group (Daesh),” said Els.
He said as number of recent events in Durban show Daesh could be actively recruiting fighters to join them in the Middle East.
A court in South Africa last month heard 11 men accused of attacking a Shia mosque and placing explosives in multiple shopping malls in the coastal city of Durban who were inspired by Daesh teachings.
State prosecutors told a court in Verulam they found eight Daesh flags and newsletters at the home of one of the suspects during a police raid.
Prosecutors alleged one of the men had a manual on how to make bombs and carry out assassinations.
The men, arrested in late September, are accused of stabbing three people at a mosque in Verulam in May, killing one.
They also reportedly placed explosives at major stores in shopping malls in Durban in June and August in hopes of extorting money from owners.
Another security expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agrees Daesh might be recruiting fighters but he does not think it is planning to attack South Africa – a country with a 3 percent Muslim population in nation of 55 million.
“South Africa has a policy of tolerance and non-interference in affairs of other nations which makes it everybody’s friend and a non-target,” he said, but warned such a position could make the country a hub for terrorist groups to find sanctuary.
Speaking at a conference in Johannesburg this week, Jasmine Opperman, a security expert said South Africa is not on the radar of countries Daesh would want to attack, but it is vulnerable to the group’s propaganda.
Daesh uses the Internet and newsletters to disseminate its propaganda, wooing fighters and sympathizers.
In 2015, a group of South Africans who went to Daesh-held territories in Syria returned despite authorities being aware of their return. They were not arrested.
But Ibrahim Vawda, a researcher with the Johannesburg-based Media Review Network (MRN), says he does not believe reports claiming Daesh is recruiting fighters in the country.
“South African Muslims don’t support ISIS (Daesh) at all. What we are hearing is a mere speculation,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Vawda said the arrested men should be viewed as innocent until they are proven guilty by the court.
Two Muslim brothers arrested in Johannesburg in 2016 are still in prison, yet authorities have failed to produce any evidence against them, he said.
Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee‚ were accused of planning to detonate explosives at the U.S. embassy and Jewish institutions in South Africa. They have denied the allegations.