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Threats against US citizens in SA met with mixed responses

The American embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday issued an alert of a possible attack on US facilities and interests on South African soil, "based on credible information".

The statement warned Americans in South Africa to be vigilant and review their security plans, as facilities and identifiable business interests could be targeted in the possible attacks.

Threats bear higher resonance for American brands in SA

On the Midday Report this afternoon, Stephen Grootes spoke to former US diplomat, Brooks Spector, about the process the US embassy follows before issuing a threat of this nature.

Spector said that internally (at the embassy), the physical processes of security would tighten even further and there would be more vigilance. Thereafter, all kinds of committees are convened to decide how the information is shared with a liaison country (like South Africa).

Speaking about the likelihood of details ever being given around the threats, Spector said:

If nothing happens, all it will be is a warning. No further details will be given.

Brooks Spector, Former US diplomat and US Correspondence

Spector highlighted that the September 11 anniversary of the terrorist attack on the US is coming up and that, for some organisations and Americans, this bears higher resonance.

Given that there is a lot of American brand presence in SA, no one can discount possible attacks.

Listen to the full interview below:

'Threats against US citizens in SA should not be taken lightly'

702 presenter John Robbie spoke to Red24 security analyst for Sub-Saharan Africa, Ryan Cummings, about the seriousness of these extremist threats.

According to Cummings, a terror warning issued by the US or any representative should be taken seriously.

He said that there are diplomatic, political and commercial implications for the country that issues such a threat and that they only do so if they are acting on credible and actionable intelligence.

Cummings emphasises that there is a need for US citizens in SA to act with vigilance.

To date there is just the warning of the threat and that heightened vigilance should be applied. However there are no suggestions at this time that US citizens should leave South Africa or adopt any further robust security measure.

Ryan Cummings, Red24 Security Analyst for Sub-Saharan Africa

Listen to the full interview below:

'We have found no imminent threat to the country'

Brian Dube, spokesperson for the State Security Agency, told CapeTalk's Kieno Kammies that they have not identified any immediate threats to state security.

While we can't ignore the information, we believe that there should be no reason to panic at this stage. We will continue to verify and gather evidence to get to the bottom of the concerns. Of course, we can't ignore these claims; terrorism is a global phenomenon.

Brian Dube, Spokesperson for the State Security Agency

According to Dube, there has been no information to confirm this threat. He has cautioned against alarmist statements and actions.

SA's internal intelligence strong

Defence analyst, Helmut Heitman, says terror threats emanating from inside South Africa are not likely to be successful. Heitman commended government intelligence for their ability to put their finger on local threats.

I don't think that we have an internal situation that warrants a threat. If there was, our intelligence are pretty good at sorting it out.

Helmut Heitman, Defence analyst

However, if the extremists' threats originate from outside of the country, Heitman says that it may be harder to control the situation.

External threats more difficult to pin down

The Institute for Security Studies' (ISS) Martin Ewi says terrorist that enter South African borders are more difficult to locate.

There are various options for terrorist to use if they want to attack a country. If American interests are being targeted, the terror element may already be in South Africa. However, the US may have intercepted the intelligence.

Martin Ewi, ISS

According to Ewi, the South African government must tighten boarder security controls and warn neighbouring countries.

He says that the country must investigate which extremist group has posed the threats, to anticipate their modus operandi and their existing local presence.


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