I was spied on by the SSA! The unsuspecting targets of the spy cables

2015-02-25 19:54
(File, Al Jazeerah)

(File, Al Jazeerah)

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Cape Town - A leaked SSA spy cable document has identified some rather unlikely suspects for alleged secret Iranian intelligence activities in South Africa, from a Persian carpet trader in Cape Town to a guest house in Johannesburg.

In a 128-page document entitled “Operational Target Analysis of Iran”, published in January 2010, the top-secret brief details some of the targets for State Security Agency scrutiny on suspicion the Iran intelligence agency could be using them as fronts for covert operations in the country.

These include a Persian carpet trade shop in Bellville, Cape Town, described as ‘deep cover’ for Iran’s intelligence agency, as well as an Iranian guest house in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

One of the identified targets is the Ahl-ul Bait Foundation, a cultural and religious centre for Islam based in Ottery, Cape Town.

News24 contacted Syed Haider, resident Imam at the Ottery-based centre, who was particularly bemused by the call, having been contacted by other news outlets inquiring about the suggestions.

“Yes we actually have been contacted by other media houses regarding these [spy] cables,” said Haider.

“We have not seen the reports or any evidence.  These are just claims which have been made.

“[But] how can somebody even comment on something like that?” he asked wryly.

Haider found the suggestions were particularly surprising given the work the centre does in the city and emphasised the role the foundation played in the broader Cape Town community in promoting peace between faiths.

“Regardless of the report or cables, we are specifically a religious organisation,” he said.

“Our activities are confined to religious, spiritual and social activities in our community.”

Asked if he thought the claims were far-fetched, he replied: “Yes of course, we have no idea what the basis of these claims are.

“We are a South African organisation, with South African members and congregation and we interact with all communities.

“It’s one of the very open places of worship in Cape Town and members belonging to any faith are welcome.

“We’re very much involved in inter-faith work.”

Another outlet deemed a potential front for covert Iranian operations was a local Persian rug distributor in Bellville, Cape Town.

News24 contacted the manager of the Persian carpet trader, who not only seemed confused by the allegations, but admitted to not knowing what the spy cables leak was.

“I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” she said referencing the spy cables.

She promised to make comment available to News24 as soon as the store knew more.

Also mentioned in the report is local group Pagad (People Against Gangsterism And Drugs).

Pagad national co-ordinator Abdusalam Ebrahim said the group had never received any support from any group, Al Jazeera reported on Monday.

“It doesn't matter if it's Iran or Iraq or Saudi Arabia,” he told the news outlet.

Other entities suggested as Iranian fronts also included two news agencies, an import and export company in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, as well as a publishing company in Cape Town which is no longer operational.

News24 spoke to the Iranian embassy in Pretoria, who said: “The ambassador is very busy at the moment addressing the issue.

"We’ve been getting calls not only from News24 but from CNN and BBC, so we will put together a press statement shortly and hopefully that will answer some of these suggestions,” a spokesperson at the Iranian embassy said.

The “Operational Target Analysis” document did conclude, though, that more information was still needed in order to make "a comprehensive threat assessment" on Iranian espionage activity in the country.

“The extent of Iranian intelligence involvement in South Africa... needs to be established," the report concluded.

- For more on the spy cables, click here or visit Al Jazeera.

Read more on:    ssa  |  south africa  |  iran  |  spy cables

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