Spy cables: SA unconcerned about al-Qaeda threat

2015-02-26 11:16
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Cape Town - South African officials apparently did not believe that al-Qaeda presented a direct threat to South Africa, despite a number of alarmist intelligence cables sent by foreign intelligence agencies.

This was revealed in secret intelligence documents from agencies all over the world which were leaked to Al Jazeera's investigative unit.

According to Al Jazeera, intelligence agencies including Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), sent a number of cables as part of their hunt for al-Qaeda operatives, warning of plots and suspicious individuals. These could be seen as an attempt to instil a fear of terrorist activity in order to shape their own priorities, Al Jazeera reported.

'White widow' tracked

However, South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA) believed that al-Qaeda activity in the country was limited to just a handful of people, most of whom were in transit to other countries in Africa.

The suspicious individuals identified by the SSA included Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the "white widow".  The SSA tracked her movements and built a picture of her associates, who were deemed to be merely passing through the country.

The SSA also monitored Muslim groups such as Tabligh Jamaat, an apolitical religious movement, and found no evidence of any al-Qaeda links.

Another cable revealed that a Somali cellphone number used by an associate of a senior al-Shabaab member and al-Qaeda associate was in contact with South African cellphone numbers for three months in 2009.

Mossad warning

The FSB warned South Africa that al-Qaeda was trying to boost its influence in Africa and Mossad warned that al-Qaeda was leveraging operations on the African continent to carry out attacks in the US and Europe and against Western interests abroad.

Mossad even warned of a car bomb attack on a South African synagogue in 2014, but no such attack took place.

The spy cables also reveal that al-Qaeda established a marine unit in North Africa aiming to use speedboats as floating bombs, and also experimented with biological warfare in 2009. The experiment failed when 40 fighters in Algeria died when they were contaminated with pneumonic plague.

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

Read more on:    fsb  |  al-qaeda  |  mossad  |  al jazeera  |  ssa  |  security  |  media  |  spy cables

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