‘South Africans were plotting attacks in Johannesburg’
ISLAMABAD: Two South African men captured along with a senior Al Qaeda terrorist were plotting attacks on tourist sites in their home country, Pakistani authorities said on Wednesday, a surprising target for Islamic terrorism given the African nation’s vocal stand against the war in Iraq and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The men, arrested on July 25 after a 12-hour gunbattle in Gujrat, greeted police with angry curses and promised an unending battle against President George W Bush and anyone who supports him, according to a senior police official.
The South African suspects were identified as Feroz Ibrahim, believed to be in his 30s, and Zubair Ismail, a man in his 20s, said Raja Munawar Hussain, the chief of police in Gujrat.
Hussain said that the authorities found several maps of South African cities among the items seized after the raid, which also netted Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a US$25 million bounty on his head for the 1998 twin East Africa embassy bombings.
“They had some terror plans for South Africa,” Hussain said. He had no details, but a Lahore-based intelligence official said that the authorities believed the men wanted to target tourist sites in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial centre.
The men are believed to have arrived in Pakistan on a flight from the United Arab Emirates just days before their arrest.
The Johannesburg daily The Star quoted unidentified police sources as saying that key landmarks were among the targets, including the Carlton Centre shopping mall, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg; parliament and the V&A Waterfront mall in Cape Town; and the US Embassy, government buildings and the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.
Another Johannesburg newspaper, ThisDay, said the British ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II was another target that was supposed to be attacked as it arrived in Durban or Cape Town from Mauritius. Ronnie Mamoepa, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs refused to confirm the reports. “There has been no independent confirmation of the reports, therefore in our view this remains speculative,” he said.
Government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said Pretoria wished “to express its outrage at the manner in which these matters have been aired without any credible substantiation from security agencies in our country and in Pakistan.” agencies