Cape Town, Johannesburg Malls Boost Security on Attack Alert

  • U.K., Australia join U.S. in warning of heightened attack risk
  • Successful attack is feasible, risk adviser Besseling says

Some of South Africa’s biggest shopping malls said they’ve stepped up security after the U.S., U.K. and Australian governments issued warnings of a heightened threat of Islamist militant attacks against foreigners in places such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. The government said there was no sign of imminent danger.

The Sandton City and Eastgate malls in Johannesburg, the Liberty Promenade mall in Cape Town and the Liberty Midlands Mall in the eastern town of Pietermaritzburg have taken steps to safeguard visitors, Nomzamo Radebe, the chief executive officer of JHI Retail, which manages the centers, said Tuesday by e-mail. The V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s biggest tourist attraction, has also increased security, spokeswoman Carla Whites said by e-mail.

The U.S. State Department warned June 4 that Islamist militants were planning attacks in South Africa’s biggest cities, possibly during the month of Ramadan, which began Monday. The U.K. and Australian governments issued similar warnings.

Attack ‘Feasible’

“A successful terrorist attack in South Africa is feasible, given police ineffectiveness, serious weaknesses within the intelligence apparatus and the lack of a counter-terrorism strategy,” Robert Besseling, the executive director of risk advisers Exx Africa, said by e-mail.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo said that while the government noted the U.S. alert, there’s “no immediate danger.”

“The security services will continue to work on matters of violent extremism and terrorism amongst others and ensure the safety of all citizens and residents,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s website on Monday.

The State Department said the information it received “comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally.”

The U.S. warned in September that militants may be targeting American government and business interests in South Africa, which has no military involvement in the Middle East.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that South Africa is a long-established and preferred thoroughfare for international terrorist organizations,” Besseling said. “Yet there is little credible indication that international terrorist activity in South Africa actually poses a direct threat to the country itself.”

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