Following travel warnings in June this year by the U.S. and British embassies in South Africa, four suspects have been arrested, including a pair of identical twins.
The four suspects were arrested over the weekend and charged with planning attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, along with buildings owned by Jewish people in the South African capital.
The Inquisitr reported in June that the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria had warned its citizens of possible attacks against them in public places in the country. Shopping malls then upped their security in an effort to prevent any attacks. Britain also warned their citizens of possible dangers in South Africa.
A later report quoted a source who said the terror information had come from a “discredited” informer, only in it for the money. At the time, South African State Security Minister David Mahlobo also downplayed the terror alert, saying there was no need to panic. However, it turned out to be more serious than thought at the time.
— Sowetan LIVE (@SowetanLIVE) July 12, 2016
According to Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi, spokesman for the elite South African police unit, Hawks, the twins, Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, 23, are now facing charges ranging from conspiracy to firearms offenses. According to the charge sheet, the twins had been attempting to fly to Syria.
A second pair of siblings, Fatima and Ibrahim Mohammed Patel were also arrested and charged with violation of the Firearms Control Act, although their charges may change.
A neighbor of the Patel family in Azaadville told Times Live, “They are good Muslim children.”
“The whole family is extremely religious but I know these children. I know them like they are my own.”
According to the neighbor, Ibrahim was a police reservist belonging to a local community policing forum.
“I can’t believe they are what the police are saying, that they are terrorists,” the neighbor added.
The four terror suspects were arrested in a raid in Newclare, Johannesburg, on Sunday and will be held in custody until July 19, when their case will be heard.
Speaking of the Thulsie twins, Malaudzi said, “The indictment does talk to issues of terror plots that they were planning against the U.S. Embassy as well as Jewish Buildings in the country.”
— Touchph.com (@TouchPH) July 11, 2016
Malaudzi added that the twins have been charged with conspiracy, adding that, “the Patel siblings have been charged with the violation of the Firearms Control Act for now.”
According to security officials, there are no known militant groups operating in South Africa, but they did remind of the security warnings issued by Britain and the U.S. in June of a high threat of attacks against foreigners in South African shopping malls.
According to the twins’ preliminary charge sheet, their conspiracy occurred at some time between October 2015 and July 8 this year.
Back in Washington, John Kirby, spokesman for the State Department said at a daily news briefing that the U.S. applauded the Hawks for making the arrests and said they had “full confidence in the South African judicial system to handle this case according to internationally accepted best practices”.
As reported by Eye Witness News, a man – claiming to be an uncle of the twin brothers – says he received a tip-off regarding their link to ISIS three years ago.
Named only as Harun, the uncle says he contacted police for help in 2013.
“I got a call from an anonymous person, who said that the twins are on their way to the airport and on their way to join ISIS. I managed to stop them. If the Hawks were so brilliant in what they say they were doing, why didn’t they do something then?”
Speaking of the twins, Martin Ewi of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says they will be facing serious charges, even though they hadn’t actually carried out their plans.
Ewi said both men are likely to face five to 15 years in prison, saying, “Conspiracy – meaning both of them were plotting but they have not yet carried out the act – it is also as serious as those who have carried out the act, because it is an attempt to [do so].”
[Photo anti-American protest in Pretoria by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]