Members of suspected ISIS cell still on the run following Kliprivier raid - report

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Members of the Hawks at the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, outside Durban. Police found an explosive device at the mosque.
Members of the Hawks at the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam, outside Durban. Police found an explosive device at the mosque.
PHOTO: File, Kerushun Pillay
  • More than one member of a suspected ISIS cell are still on the run following a raid on a smallholding in Kliprivier in July.
  • The suspects arrested can reportedly be linked to attacks on civilians in Johannesburg on New Year's Eve and a mosque in Verulam in 2018.
  • According to reports, the number plate of the car used in the New Year's Eve attack as well as an ISIS flag was found during the raid.

More than one member of a suspected cell of the terrorist organisation ISIS (Islamic State) are still at large after a raid on a smallholding in Kliprivier outside Johannesburg on 23 July, according to Rapport.

At the time, five foreign nationals were arrested, News24 reported.

Security sources told Daily Maverick the five suspects, including a Somali and an Ethiopian national, are linked to the case in KwaZulu-Natal where Farhad Hoomer and 11 other men, including foreigners, were charged with terrorism, murder, attempted murder, extortion and arson after an extremist attack on a mosque in Verulam in 2018.

In addition to possible links to an attack on a Verulam mosque, News24 understands the five can also be linked to a shooting at Poppy's restaurant in Melville and other shootings at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg, on New Year's Eve last year.

New Year's Eve shootings

Two women were killed and six people injured at Poppy's, when occupants of a black BMW SUV opened fire on patrons.

At Mary Fitzgerald Square, seven men and four women were shot and injured after gunmen opened fire at revellers.

During the Kliprivier raid, police reportedly seized, among other things, AK-47 assault rifles, ISIS flags and video training material that could be used to plan terrorist attacks.

Rapport reported that one of the men, who has been on the run since the raid, was searched by the police two years ago after the attack on the Verulam mosque.

Abbas Essop died during the attack, while Imam Ali Nchiyane and caretaker Mohammed Ali survived. The mosque's library was also petrol bombed.

Case struck from roll

On 13 July, the Verulam Magistrate's Court struck off the roll the case against Hoomer and the 11 others who had been accused of terror attacks in the Durban area in May and October 2018.

In October 2018, police initially arrested 19 people on charges relating to the planting of a number of incendiary devices at various locations in and around Durban over the course of several months, as well as the fatal knife attack at the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam which claimed the life of Essop, News24 reported.

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Intelligence sources told Rapport that one of the 19 men initially arrested, was now back on the police radar as a potential terrorist threat.

The police raid and arrest of the alleged kidnapping syndicate in Kliprivier had been described by South African authorities as "one of the biggest breakthroughs we have had in our investigations of international terrorism in South Africa", according to Daily Maverick.

During the raid, police reportedly confiscated various items that linked the suspects to organised crime or terrorism.

Number plate, ISIS flag found

A police source told Rapport this included the number plate of the black BMW X5 used in the New Year's Eve attacks, as well as an ISIS flag.

Speaking at the scene of the arrests, national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole said the five were linked to kidnappings in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and some crimes outside the country.

This included the abduction of a 72-year-old Indian national businessman who was kidnapped on 2 July and rescued by the police one day after the arrests, on 24 July.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said that Ricardo Uzair Sasman, Hassen Raees Muhammed and Lebogang Gift Mamabolo were charged with kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, extortion, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

They briefly appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on 3 August. Two other suspects were charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition and appeared in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on 27 July, IOL reported.

ISIS activities 'becoming increasingly clear'

Rapport's source says ISIS's activities in South Africa are becoming increasingly clear. "The Kliprivier cell is directly linked to New Year's Eve attacks, and now, through the fugitive suspect from Kliprivier, also to the Verulam mosque attack. So, you have arrests for New Year's Eve, Verulam and Kliprivier with common role players," the intelligence source reportedly said.

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National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo could not confirm the identity of the fugitive to Rapport. Naidoo also said the charge sheet against the five arrested suspects did not include any mention of the New Year's Eve attacks, and that he could not comment on any items found on the scene of the Kliprivier arrest as these could be used as evidence.

 - Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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