African News: US and UK issue terror alert on SA, as France launches alert App
By Friday Nwosu
The British government has warned that there is a “high threat” terrorists could carry out “indiscriminate” attacks on British people in South African shopping areas.
According to mirror.co.uk, the targeted areas are believed to be in Johannesburg and Cape Town where there is a high expat and tourist population.
The warning comes just days after the United States embassy in Pretoria issued a similar warning to its citizens.
The warnings could lead to fears about a similar attack to the 2013 siege on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi , in which al-Shabab gunmen from neighboring Somalia killed 67 people.
In a statement on the Government’s website it said: “There is a high threat from terrorism.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
“There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
“You should be vigilant at this time.”
An Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), spokesman told Mirror Online: “We updated our travel advice for South Africa on May 20 and June 4 2016.
“These make clear that there is a high threat from terrorism in South Africa, including in places visited by foreigners.
“We do not advise against travel to any part of South Africa.
“We advise all British nationals planning to travel to South Africa to read our travel advice and subscribe to email alerts for future updates.”
The spokeswoman could not say what triggered the warnings, but said the information had been “intelligence-led.”
The latest warning comes a month after a message from the spokesman of Islamic State called for followers to attack the West during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The holy month begins today and is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and carry out good deeds.
South Africa’s State Security Minister, David Mahlobo downplayed the terror threat following the warning from the US on Saturday and security officials say there are no known militant groups operating in South Africa.
He told Africareview.com: “South Africa remains a strong and stable democratic country and there is no immediate danger posed by the alert.”
But a counter-terrorism expert for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said the government’s reaction to the alert was “naïve and irresponsible” and it should communicate clearly about what it was doing about this.
Anton du Plessis said: “To say that we shouldn’t be concerned is naive and to respond as the government has, is irresponsible.
“It is definitely something we should be engaging in as South Africans.”
In a related development, the French government has launched a smartphone app that would alert users to possible terror attacks and provide them with information on how to stay safe. The French Interior Ministry announced the app on Wednesday ahead of the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament, which kicks off on Friday outside Paris. Officials in France and other countries have warned that the tournament may be a target for terrorist attacks.
The app, called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), was developed as part of a pilot project following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, according to the AFP. It will use geolocation to deliver information tailored to each user’s location, with alerts appearing less than 15 minutes after an incident is confirmed. Users will also be able to view alerts for up to eight different geographical areas, in case they want to check up on friends or family during an attack, and can share alerts directly to social media. The app will be available in French and English, and will be free to download on iOS and Android.