Saps not told of al-Qaeda threat

2010-05-17 22:37

Johannesburg - South African police said on Monday that they hadn't been "consulted or informed" about claims that a senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq was planning an attack during the FIFA World Cup next month.

"The South African police are still working on getting confirmation," Nonkululeko Mbatha, spokesperson for the national police chief, General Bheki Cele, told AFP.

"I don't know anything about that. We've not been consulted or informed," police spokesperson Vish Naidoo told AFP.

"We must phone Iraq. That's the next step," he said.

Cele said last week that he knew of no security threat to the soccer championship that kicks off on June 11.

An Iraqi security spokesperson said on Monday that Abdullah Azzam Saleh Misfar al-Qahtani, a 30-year-old Saudi arrested two weeks ago, "participated in the planning of a terrorist act in South Africa during the World Cup".

Mock hijacking

The report came as South African police and military staged a mock hijacking on Monday in Sandton's business district to demonstrate their readiness to safeguard the games.

"Our comprehensive plan looks at the smallest of criminal acts the biggest form such as terrorism," Cele said at the event, before the report came out.

"Whilst no country can boast it is immune to terrorist acts, what becomes critical is that should such an event occur, how do we respond," he said.

"What makes us even more alert in our security plan is that South Africa will be hosting the whole world.

With an average 50 murders a day, crime rather than terrorism has received most of the attention in the run-up to the tournament.

South Africa will deploy 41 000 police officers during the month-long tournament, which runs from June 11 to July 11.

The military is on high alert to provide back-up support, and special courts will be in place for any crimes connected to the event.