- Five foreign nationals linked to a spate of kidnappings have been arrested.
- They are linked to an international kidnapping and extremism syndicate.
- They were arrested after the kidnap of a prominent 72-year-old individual.
Police have arrested five foreign nationals behind a spate of kidnappings - inside and outside the country.
They are linked to an international kidnapping and extremism syndicate.
News24 understands the five could 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.
Two women were killed and six people injured at Poppy's, when occupants of a black BMW SUV opened fire on patrons.
At the Mary Fitzgerald Square, seven men and four women were shot and injured after gunmen opened fire at revellers.
Speaking at the scene of the arrests, national police commissioner General Kehla Sitole said police had not ruled out the possibility that the five individuals could be linked to an international terrorist group.
"Secondly, we are also looking at such cases from an unconventional policing approach because these types of crimes require conventional and unconventional approach[es].
"In certain instances, they also require of us to work together with the defence and other security forces because people like these can cripple the grand economic strategy of the country, and can challenge the well-being of the country if we are not aware.
"… we have our intelligence moving out there very strong, but we [are] also working with agencies at integrated intelligence. We are putting our forces together and are linking with other countries at international level. We are trying to surround them and bring them to book," Sitole said.
The five people, aged between 25 and 36, were arrested at a plot in Kliprivier in the Vaal on Thursday, following lengthy investigations.
Sitole applauded the arrests and added that a police investigation had been under way for some time now. He said the five have also been linked to kidnapping cases across the country.
"We had a kidnapping case which was reported on 2 July, where a prominent 72-year-old person was kidnapped by the suspects. We have been following this case where crime intelligence, organised crime, detectives and the Hawks were working together.
"The operation has brought us to this place as early as yesterday. It has been discovered that the place has been used as one of the bases by the criminals, who are not [only] involved in one single kidnapping case, but it is an organised type of a syndicate," said Sitole.
#kidnappingsyndicate General Kehla Sitole looking at the recovered pistols and rifles found hidden underground during the arrest of 5 foreigners linked to a local and international kidnapping and extremism syndicate at a plot in Kliprivier @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/jozsEZ3AEq— ntwaagae Seleka (@ntwaagae) July 23, 2020
Police unearthed nine rifles, which had been hidden in the garden, pistols, and military uniforms used for training.
"As we were digging further, we uncovered that the same firearms found here, some of them have been identified in videos of other crimes like the New Year's Day attack and extremism and kidnapping cases around KwaZulu-Natal.
"We have further discovered that there is a trans-national link into the crimes taking place here. Fortunate[ly], we have suspects that are detained. We are on the lookout for the owner of the place and [a] kidnapped person.
"We have decided to put that on the 72-hour activation plan. We will be working tirelessly, moving around until we find the suspect. A great job by the police and they have sacrificed and dedicated themselves to fight crime," Sitole said.
#kidnappingsyndicate A national joint operation by police, led to the arrest of the five foreigners. The suspects have kidnapped a 72-year-old person who has not been found. Police also recovered pistols and rifles hidden undergound (@ntwaagae) pic.twitter.com/IyAxy0CcgT— Team News24 (@TeamNews24) July 23, 2020
Sitole said the five are linked to kidnappings in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and some crimes outside the country. The police were coordinating and cooperating with law enforcement agencies, regionally and internationally, including Interpol.
"As I am speaking now, and looking at the outcome of the execution of the operation, it then shows that the country is safe because we have arrested some of them and are going for others.
"But they will remain a threat to the country and now it depends on how we respond to the threat. What we are doing now, we are responding to the threat," said Sitole.
The five individuals are expected to appear in court soon.