Al-Qaeda World Cup arrest follows South African professor's warning

08:27, May 18, 2010      

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The arrest of Saudi army officer in Iraq on Monday in connection with an alleged al-Qaeda terror plot to disrupt the FIFA World Cup in South Africa follows a warning by a an expert South Africa last week that al-Qaeda was targeting the football tournament.

Professor Hussein Solomon, head of the International Institute for Islamic Studies at Pretoria University, told The Citizen newspaper in Johannesburg on May 13 that he believed Al Qaeda had every intention of committing wholesale slaughter during the World Cup.

He said al-Qaeda suspects in many parts of the world had been found to have South African passports.

On Monday Saudi Colonel Azzam al-Qahtani was detained. He is suspected of planning attacks on the World Cup which kicks off on June 11.

South African police commissioner Bheki Cele told the South African parliament two weeks ago that South African police had investigated a threat by Al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda offshoot, and decided it was not credible.

Cele insisted South Africa was more than prepared for any terror threat to the World Cup.

Mark Schroeder, the Sub-Saharan Africa expert for South African private intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, disagreed with Solomon's assessment of an al-Qaeda threat to the World Cup in South Africa.

Schroeder told The Citizen: "Any attack will hurt them (al-Qaeda) more than it could benefit them."

He also pointed out that South African intelligence services had recently been "waking up" to the real threats posed by al-Qaeda offshoots.

Schroeder said that, prior to threats being made against the U.S. Embassy in South Africa last year, the South African Secret Service and National Intelligence Agency had very little or no idea of what al- Qaeda and its affiliate Al Shabaab was up to in Somalia.

Schroeder said that Al Shabaab - who threatened to blow up the FIFA World Cup - was active and established in the Cape Flats near Cape Town and was also using the Somali diaspora across Africa to raise funds for terror activities.

Schroeder said he was adamant that crime, not al-Qaeda terrorism, should be the major concern for tourists and the South African security services.

However, last week Solomon told The Citizen that, contrary to some opinions, he was convinced that the terror group intended biting the hand that has fed it, attacking the country where crooked officials had for years allowed them access to false passports and identity documents with which to carry out their terror schemes.

Solomon told The Citizen that he did not agree with assessments that al-Qaeda would ignore the World Cup because South Africa was too valuable as a logistics hub for them. Said Solomon: "We have a terrible rot in our Department of Home Affairs, which in many ways is the root of all evil. South African passports and documents routinely turn up in the hands of criminals as well as Islamic terror cells."

He said that after the London bombings several years ago vast numbers of South African passports were recovered by the UK police.

South African has been deeply infiltrated by organized crime syndicates, and the South African department of home affairs has been very heavily infiltrated.

The Citizen reported that in early 2008 a series of raids by UK police saw dozens of men being arrested as part of an organized human trafficking scheme. The suspects were jailed after UK courts found that they had obtained false South African passports for Indian and Pakistani citizen who wanted to enter the UK illegally.

After the July 7, 2005 London bus bombings dozens of South African passports were found by police investigating the attacks, Solomon told The Citizen.

Said Solomon: "Years before the 2008 arrests it was known there was a problem with Home Affairs. Haroon Aswat, the mastermind of the July 7 London bus bombings, and a former bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden's, lived in South Africa for years, and traveled to the UK two weeks before those bombings."

He told The Citizen: "It is fair to presume he may have been the source of the fake South African passports. It is also fair to presume he planned the attacks from Gauteng (province in South Africa)."

Solomon said Aswat was by far the most senior al-Qaeda operative linked to the London bombings.

He continued: "Let's not forget that false South African passports do not only turn up in the hands of serious international criminals. They are so easy to obtain that even (U.S. actor) Wesley Snipes apparently bought himself a South African passport off a crooked Home Affairs official."

Solomon said that the widespread use of South African passports had led many experts to believe that al-Qaeda would not risk losing such a resource - however he believed that this was not the case: "That argument presumes that al-Qaeda is a homogenous entity with a central command - which it is not. Al-Qaeda has already made its intentions clear."

Solomon said that a few weeks ago a Jamaican born cleric was deported from Botswana after that country caught him red-handed attempting to recruit suicide bombers to target the World Cup.

Solomon continued: "Al-Qaeda have had seven years to plan an operation and plant their people here (in South Africa). For seven years they have had time to prepare their plans and obtain the weapons, passports and identity documents they need".

He added that weapons and chemicals are in plentiful supply in South Africa.

"They will have billions of people watching televisions and they will have no limit of targets. The only way to take on al-Qaeda is an operation that needs to be driven by intelligence, and our intelligence services have been gutted."



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