Although South Africa has successfully hosted a number of sport events (Rugby World Cup in 1995, African Cup of Nations in 1996, the All African Games in 1999 and the Cricket World Cup in 2003) as well as other events, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the Non-Aligned Movement summit in 1998, that have attracted regional and international attention, hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010 is clearly different –one only needs to take domestic and international attention and interest into consideration–. On a national level, hosting the event has called for a revamping of infrastructure, including the building of new stadiums. All events are confronted with different security threats. One cannot, for instance, compare the Olympic Games with a political event, or even hosting the FIFA World Cup with hosting the Cricket World Cup, mentioning two sports events that have been targeted or against which terrorist attacks have been planned. Based on this, disregarding the potential threat of terrorism of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa because it has never been a target of a major terrorist attack will be a mistake.
This Working Paper will provide an overview of the following:
- Terrorist threats associated with hosting a prominent sports event, while placing potential threats in context in South Africa.
- An overview of preparations for the FIFA World Cup.
The aim of this paper is not to discourage visitors from coming to South Africa, but rather to place the potential threat of terrorism in context. Understandably, South Africa is not on the same level of alertness towards terrorism than countries in other parts of the world, but it is especially this level of comfort, or the common assessment that ‘it will never happen to us’, that contributes to South Africa’s vulnerability as a potential target. While crime and the threat of hooligans are more realistic, South Africa also needs to realise that in being part of the international community places the country in a different threat category than it is normally used to.
Why Target the FIFA World Cup?
The host country of major sports events must assess the value of the exposure and direct and secondary benefits it might get from them. In assessing the potential economic and political benefits of hosting an event of this magnitude it will have to weigh up against them the costs required to develop and construct additional infrastructure, building and/or upgrading sport facilities, as well as focusing on other indirect needs such as housing and providing security to foreign guests. Equally, terrorists also need to make similar estimates, but with a very different outcome in mind. In other words, potential terrorists will assess the value of attacking an event from different perspectives, depending on their motivation and objectives. It is essential from the onset of this analysis to emphasise that the event is the primary target and not the host country. In other words, although the country might have been low on the radar as a target, a different set of rules applies to events that attract tremendous media interest and foreign visitors. In conducting this analysis it is advisable to rather overestimate than underestimate the potential threat from crime or terrorism. Although both are interrelated, particularly if adopting a holistic approach, the primary focus in this paper will be on the potential threat of –and vulnerability to– terrorism.
Threat assessments are not limited to threats with an obvious or even indirect connection to the event or its participants. The representative or symbolic value of the event or venue also needs to be taken into consideration, since terrorists and other politically-driven groups seek recognition for their cause in a theatrical manner and then instil fear by eroding the public’s confidence in the state for their safety. It therefore came as no surprise that al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM) posted a threat on the Mushtaqun Lel Jannah (‘Longing for Paradise’) website in early April: ‘How amazing could the match United States versus Britain be when broadcasted live on air at a stadium packed with spectators when the sound of an explosion rumbles through the stands, the whole stadium is turned upside down and the number of dead bodies are in their dozens and hundreds, Allah willing. Al-Qaeda, who managed to deliver 50 grams of explosives to the Detroit plane, after infiltrating dozens of US security barriers, al-Qaeda, who enabled brother martyr Abul Kheir (Abdullah Asiri) to get into the palace of Mohammed bin Nayef, al-Qaeda, who humiliated the world’s greatest intelligence apparatus through the operation of Mujahid Abu Dujana al-Khorassani (Humam al-Balawi), who shattered the pride of the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence combined. Al-Qaeda will have a presence in the games, Allah willing. Not only the US and Britain, but other countries are on the hit list of the terrorist group, including France, Germany and Italy: All those countries are part of the Zionist-Crusader campaign against Islam’. Although the seriousness of this threat is being contested by South African officials, the reality remains that any group and individual with an ‘issue’ will be tempted to capitalise on the stage set by hosting an international event of this magnitude.
This Working Paper will provide a brief vulnerability assessment in an attempt to identify possible threats, specifically terrorism ones, based on their feasibility and on indicators of potential exploitation such as: lax immigration and security laws; corruption levels; long porous borders associated with insufficient border control units or instruments; and advanced infrastructure without effective security measures. These threats are further categorised by the potential likelihood that they will be exploited, thereby providing an informed assessment based on detecting, monitoring and predicting potential threats.
Assessing the Threat and Vulnerability of Terrorism
Analysing the risks, vulnerability and threats confronting South Africa in preparation of the FIFA World Cup, we consider both domestic and transnational terrorism. Especially when hosting an international event, no host country can isolate itself from international developments and the consequences of globalisation and the Internet. Only a limited number of domestic conflicts remain truly domestic. In one example, although the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) concentrate most of their attacks in Sri Lanka and India, expatriate communities sympathetic to the Tamil cause have so far been involved in providing financial support to the LTTE. Until recently these communities were left ‘in peace’ –although monitored– to continue with their activities till the Sri Lankan government began to increase the pressure on host governments to crack down especially on the financing of terrorism. South Africa, for instance, also hosts Tamil communities in certain areas of the country, and although these communities limit their activities in South Africa to legitimate dissent, the possibility of launching attacks at the FIFA World Cup (as with other international events) cannot be excluded. It will therefore be essential to include in this analysis immigrant political and ethnic communities within the country that are in conflict or strife with either their respective governments or with other groups. It should be borne in mind that although no conflict might have manifested itself in South Africa, the FIFA World Cup is an international event that will most probably include representatives from the opposing party in the conflict, not to mention the value of media coverage that can be used to gain recognition or enhance the conflict’s profile. The fact no extremist or radical group has never made its views known to the public or expressed opinions in its host country about existing feuds in its country of origin does not mean that they do not exist. In other words, the lack of previous activities should not be the benchmark for assessment.
In a more recent example, in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games, China listed a number of security challenges, ranging from pro-Tibetan groups to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist group particularly active in the western Xinjian region. In the build up to the opening of the Games, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) –linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)– claimed responsibility for the following attacks:
- 5 May: a Shanghai bus bombing that killed three.
- 17 May: another Shanghai attack along with an attack on the police in Wenzhou in which an explosives-laden tractor was used.
- 17 May: the bombing of a Guangzhou plastic factory.
- 21 July: the detonation of explosive devices on two public buses in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, that resulted in two people dead and 14 injured.
- August 2008: two Islamic militants rammed a truck into a group of Chinese guards and lobbed grenades, killing at least 16, in the north-western Xinjiang province.
The threat from domestic terrorist groups with transnational links was placed higher on the list of potential dangers than one from outside the country. Even considering the links between the ETIM, the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (IMET) and the Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan (IMU) with al-Qaeda, an important lesson can be taken from this analysis: transnational terrorists will strive to align themselves to domestic actors that know the territory, instead of using foreign operatives that will definitely attract unnecessary attention in a controlled society.
Similarly, those conducting an analysis should not limit their assessment of potential groups posing a threat to the countries involved in the event, since any terrorist group and/or individuals hoping to draw attention to their cause can target it (irrespective of the target country participating in the event). During the 2010 African Cup, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) targeted the Togo national team and achieved its objective of drawing attention to its ‘forgotten’ cause, while having nothing specific against Togo itself. In other words, the ‘event’ was the target and not the host country. The 1972 Olympic Games attack is another example of exploiting an event to make a statement, while the host country –Germany– was never the intended target. Furthermore, it is unknown to what extent certain terrorist attacks influence subsequent one, as terror groups tend to learn from the example of others. In other words, in South Africa’s case, the terrorist threat is not limited to the participating countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, the UK and the US. Attacks might equally be directed at matches that do not involve a ‘high value target’, such as the US, the UK or other European countries. Considering that security alertness might be greater at matches involving ‘high-value targets’ or at larger venues such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban, terrorists might rather consider smaller venues such as Rustenburg, Nelspruit and Polokwane (not that security will be absent at these locations). Nevertheless, the symbolic value of targeting a ‘high-grade target’ at a high-level security venue cannot be underestimated.
Although active or dormant domestic terror organisations might have previously exclusively focused their attention on domestic targets, prior experience indicates that they might capitalise on the international attention that they will most certainly get, in an attempt to gain recognition for their grievances. It will therefore not be advisable to assume that since domestic organisations have been reluctant to launch attacks against international targets in the past they will necessarily refrain from targeting the World Cup. As mentioned earlier, the bigger the attraction, particularly in terms of media attention, the greater the possibility that even small groups might see the potential in placing a particular issue and/or grievance on the proverbial front page.
For example, on 27 July 1996, Eric Robert Rudolph detonated an explosive device at the Centennial Park where the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were held. The attack was followed by bombings directed at abortion clinics in Sandy Springs and Birmingham and at the Otherside Lounge, a gay/lesbian bar before. Categorised as a right-wing extremist who lived near the Georgia border in North Carolina, Rudolph’s primary motivation was to fight against abortion and homosexuality. In targeting the Olympic Games, Rudolph’s goal was to force the cancellation of the Games or, at the very least, create such a state of insecurity that the streets around the venues would empty of people. According to Rudolph himself: ‘The purpose of the attack was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand’. His original plan was to knock out the power grid surrounding Atlanta and, in effect, pull the plug on the Games. When he was unable to acquire the high explosives necessary to achieve this objective, he resorted to his backup plan and built five low-tech timed devices, propelled by smokeless gunpowder and full of masonry nails. It is important to note that he primarily targeted law enforcement personnel through the use of secondary devices and the warning given through a 911 call in the case of the Olympic bombing. According to Rudolph: ‘The location and time of detonation was to be given, and the intent was to thereby clear each of the areas, leaving only uniformed arms-carrying government personnel exposed to potential injury… I knew the weapons used [highly uncontrollable timed explosives] and the choice of tactics [placing them in areas frequented by large numbers of civilians] could potentially lead to a disaster’. On the day of the attack, Rudolph placed a backpack containing the bomb on the ground under a bench. He set the timer and walked towards a nearby phone booth. He dialled 911 and claimed ‘there’s a bomb in Centennial Park’, when the 911 operator hung up on him. Due to bystanders that heard his second call he did not mention the exact location of the device (underneath a bench near the base of a concert sound tower). Despite this second call, information on the bomb threat never reached the park. A security guard, however, spotted the bag and informed his supervisor, who summoned two bomb experts. Notwithstanding attempts to clear the area, the device detonated, killing one person (with a second person dying as a result of a heart attack) and injuring a further 111.
An important lesson from the Atlanta Olympic bombing is that Eric Robert Rudolph had not committed an earlier act of terrorism that could have drawn attention to his intentions. The threat also came in the form of a lone attacker, commonly referred to as a ‘lone wolf’, who was operating independently from any identifiable organisation, although the motivation might be similar to that of an identifiable movement –a threat associated with the decentralised nature of terrorism–.
Although now dormant, South Africa has been confronted by periodic incidents of right-wing extremism with threats from a vigilante group known as People against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) subsequently leading to a campaign of urban terrorism in Cape Town until 2000.
As regards right-wing extremism, the Boeremag (‘Boer Force’) was the last group to have raised concern. Instead of being one identifiable movement associated with specific activities, both legal and illegal, manifestations of right-wing extremism sporadically come and go and also often involve a core group that plans and executes activities in a clandestine fashion, making it extremely difficult to provide an assessment of structures, reach and operations. Although active before 1994, the white right has since that date been fighting for ethnic survival. While only a few still strive for white supremacy, the majority realise that in essence the fight today is to protect the Afrikaners’ cultural identity. A number of smaller groups that act within the boundaries of the law believe that achieving an ethnic Afrikaner state or autonomous region is the only solution. Smaller cells under names such as Boere Aanvals Troepe, as well as the Boeremag, were implicated in a few attacks and broader plots to overthrow the existing government. Although right-wing extremism is particularly associated with rural areas, involving former members of South Africa’s security apparatus, the trend is changing and now even professionals that formerly kept away from right-wing politics have become attracted. As in the period before 1994, right-wing groups predominately use commercial explosives but also target military facilities to gain access to military equipment. The use of explosive devices is directed at broader infrastructures, including bridges, railway lines and dams. Sabotage such as this was a common practice during the Anglo-Boer Wars and was at that time of strategic importance in cutting supply lines. However, in a modern setting, attacks on infrastructure can only be described as short-sighted, an indication more of frustration than of any real strategic intention. Targeting taxi ranks, sports events and places of public interest or causing mass casualties associated with targeted assassinations were, of course, more serious. According to information revealed during the Boeremag trial, its tactics included the use of explosives and assassinations. Most notably a plot was uncovered in December 2002 in which Boeremag member Herman van Rooyen rigged a car bomb with 384 kg of explosives, together with two bags of nuts and bolts for shrapnel. The car bomb was apparently meant for a game between Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. In addition to earlier plans to target soccer games in particular (as they are associated with the black community in South Africa), the Boeremag also established relationships with right-wing groups in the US and Europe, especially Germany, that raised some concern. Whether the Boeremag or other right-wing groups will target the FIFA World Cup, possibly resulting in transnational casualties, is uncertain, although it will most likely take the opportunity to direct international attention towards concerns such as affirmative action, land reform and cultural marginalisation.
People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) and associated organisations have served mainly as a broad anti-crime front. PAGAD’s initial attacks were directed against drug dealers and known gangsters. The growing prominence of cell structures as part of the G-Force (Gun-Force) as well as an extreme Islamist agenda changed PAGAD from a vigilante/pressure group to a domestic terror group that included in its target selection state structures and representatives, including police stations, outspoken community members and restaurants, particularly those associated with the US or with homosexuality. Under the umbrella of PAGAD, similar structures were formed, each with a different reason for their existence, namely: Muslims Against Global Oppression (MAGO), Muslims Against Illegitimate Leaders (MAIL) and People Against Prostitutes and Sodomites (PAPAS). Each of these structures presented a different aspect of life in the Western Cape that could be used to recruit new members. For example, a small PAGAD ally, Qibla, took part in a march on 7 January 2000 to the Russian Embassy in Cape Town in protest against the killing of Muslims in Chechnya, and its leader Achmat Cassiem handed over a memorandum demanding that Russia end the ‘bloodshed’ in Grozny. In reaction to the US strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on 6 August 1998, PAGAD allegedly began to target businesses linked to the US, the best example being the explosion that targeted Planet Hollywood on 25 August 1998. The influence of international politics was confirmed with the bombing of a Jewish Synagogue in Wynberg on 18 December 1998 in reaction to US and British bombing raids over Iraq. During this period numerous protests were held under the banner of MAGO. Earlier in 1999 MAGO’s spokesman, Moain Achmad, accused the South African government of being part of a US-led ‘hidden agenda’: ‘Because it [a multi-religious conference and alleged funding for Parliament] comes from the United States, which is controlling the whole world, we know there is a hidden agenda’. In addition to the traditional use of pipe bombs, the later campaign included car bombs, a motorcycle bomb, the use of mobile phones to detonate explosive devices and the use of ammonium nitrate instead of gunpowder. Although the primary culprits were arrested and prosecuted (a few have already been released, most notably Abdussalaam Ebrahim) and the fact that PAGAD’s violent activities came to a standstill, this does not imply that its underlying reasons and structure have come to an end since 2000. Western countries, including the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be participating in the FIFA World Cup, providing an opportunity to South African nationals or those who could benefit from a strong anti-Western sentiment and other elements that led to South Africa being categorized as a haven for transnational terrorism to direct their attacks against representatives of the West.
South Africa is currently confronted by other challenges to which brief reference should be made. For someone not following the news on a daily basis, South Africa could be described as a stable country and a ‘success story’ after the peaceful transition from Apartheid in 1994. It is only when scratching beneath the surface that an outsider can begin to realise that there is much anger and frustration in the country. Afrikaner fears are again in the spotlight following the statements by Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth League, over the last few months and, more particularly, his revival of the anti-Apartheid struggle song ‘Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer’. It might seem insignificant, but ‘Boer’ refers to white Afrikaner and with over 3,000 white farmers having been killed in attacks since 1994, the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), on 3 April brought the issue to the fore again. Although the AWB is disregarded by many as insignificant and unable to attract broad Afrikaner support, the impact of Terre’Blanche’s murder caused a deep resonance. After being hacked to death on his farm, his death has sparked tension between many white Afrikaners (often having no connexion with the AWB) and black South Africans, more specifically the ANC Youth League, COSATU and the Pan-African Congress (PAC). Tension between black and white had never been so high since before the 1994 elections. The World Cup will thus provide a good opportunity for both sides to capitalise on it, through demonstrations, for instance. Attacks specifically directed against foreigners during the World Cup are, however, unlikely.
Although related to domestic politics, it is to be expected that people might use the platform created by the World Cup to protest against issues such as service delivery, crime and racial tension. Affecting all South Africans is the question of service delivery that recently led to violent protest action against the current government. Frustrated by the current government’s inability to honour its election pledges and by rising electricity prices, members of –especially– the black community turned to violence and barricaded roads and attacked buildings and vehicles. Further fuelling the current situation is the perception that employers, such as mining companies, prefer to employ foreigners rather than locals –an urgent danger signal that there will be a return to xenophobic attacks–. Also, the introduction of the bus-rapid transit (BRT) system resulted in the taxi industry expressing anger against the government and warned that there might be a reaction, leaving the service users stuck in the middle. The Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, only had this to say: ‘No right-thinking South African would even try to disrupt the World Cup. They love this country’.
Globalisation, particularly developments in communications (with specific reference to the Internet), the mass media and global travel (including migration and immigration trends) have facilitated the ‘transnationalisation’ of domestic terrorism. Issues that previously had an exclusively domestic character and focus, today expand well beyond national borders. Terrorists have begun to realise that they can also expand their operations (particularly financing, planning, recruitment and training) to areas that do not attract the attention of security and intelligence agencies, ie, to terrorist havens.
Although South Africa has been fortunate in not having been targeted in an act of transnational terrorism, other countries on the continent (most notably Algeria, Morocco, Somalia and Nigeria) have not been so lucky. In most incidents terrorists have used conventional weapons, such as bombs and small arms, although an alarming trend is the use of coordinated attacks, including secondary strikes targeting first responders. Improvised explosive devices (IED) are still considered the most effective method. Although bombings traditionally attract more attention, the use of firearms should not be disregarded. One only needs to recall the impact of the Mumbai and Lahore attacks in November 2008 and February 2009, respectively, to appreciate the devastating impact of the use of automatic and semi-automatic fire in a coordinated attack. In Africa the easy accessibility of firearms as a result of still unresolved domestic conflicts definitely heightens the concern. The most important lesson is that terrorists always opt for the most cost-effective and easily available weapons to execute their attacks.
The Threat from Transnational Terrorism in South Africa
Traditionally, when assessing the threat of transnational terrorism to a particular country a distinction is made between countries categorised as targets or as havens:
Factors such as the following will influence the decision to target a country:
- The availability and protection of selected targets.
- Access to weaponry and/or explosives.
- The safety to operate without being detected (with or without ‘support’ structures), including the ease with which a country is entered and exited without drawing attention, or if detected, without being importuned. To ensure security a sub-regional approach should be called for and the following factors considered:
- Uncontrolled areas.
- Protection and monitoring of formal and informal points of entry.
- Corruption and the capacity of the security forces. In the former case, the ability of non-South African nationals to obtain South African identity documents and passports has led to growing concern within the international community. In contrast to cases of forgery in countries around the world, criminals and potential terrorists can gain access to blank official passports or even manage to get passports issued under fraudulent names. Cases of vulnerability in Home Affairs have led to a number of investigations.
- The ability to blend into the local community through:
- Marriage with a local national. A worrying development in South Africa –due to the corruption in the Home Affairs department– is the existence of marriages being carried out without the knowledge of the South African citizen concerned.
- Business: potential terrorists might become involved in providing assistance to poor communities and thereby indirectly ‘buy’ goodwill and loyalty.
- Finding pockets of support, particularly amongst immigrant communities (legal or illegal).
- The levels of knowledge and sense of duty and citizenship of ordinary citizens in reporting crime and suspicious activities to the police.
- The sense of kinship that minorities have towards individuals with whom they share a common culture, religion or history. This definitely contributes to the vulnerability and exploitation of foreign residents when recruiting and/or securing assistance in the execution of the attack.
- The levels of actual and potential support can be divided into three broad categories:
- Support for the ideals of a terrorist organisation. This is often protected under the basic rights of freedom of speech and association (although it is criminalised in a few countries under the prevention of the incitement to terrorism). It is usually manifested in open or covert sympathy for the ideals of a person or group associated with terrorism or through the participation in protest actions. It cannot be considered the same as belonging to a terrorist organization, but it does serve as an indicator of sympathy.
- Financial assistance, that might be given knowingly or unknowingly. For instance, on 26 January 2007, under Executive Order 13224, the US listed Moulana Farhad Ahmed Dockrat, a Muslim cleric from Pretoria, and his cousin, Dr Junaid Ismail Dockrat, a dentist from Mayfair, and although no legal action was brought against either of them, the case raised substantial media attention. However, this was not the first listing in which South Africa was implicated: on 29 May 2003, the Al-Aqsa ASBL (better known as the Al-Aqsa Foundation) was listed by the US Federal Register as a financier of terrorism, based on its alleged association with Hamas. With an office in Johannesburg, this international organisation also has offices in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Pakistan and Yemen. According to the US State Department, Moulana Farhad Dockrat allegedly gave around R400,000 in 2001 to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, to be forwarded to the Al-Akhtar Trust headquarters in Pakistan, which had been identified as a fundraiser for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Al-Akhtar Trust had been identified by the US as a Special Designated Global Terrorist in terms of Executive Order 13224 as early as 14 October 2003. According to news reports, Dr Dockrat was identified as an al-Qaeda ‘financier, recruiter and facilitator’. Dr Dockrat allegedly recruited South Africans and coordinated their journeys to Pakistan to train with al-Qaeda, during which time he was in contact with Hamza Rabi’a. The latter was an Egyptian national described as a high-level al-Qaeda operations chief who was killed in Pakistan on 1 December 2005. The US also accused Dr Dockrat of raising R120,000 that Rabi’a received in March or April 2004. With reference to the allegation that Dr Dockrat recruited and facilitated the transfer of South African nationals to receive training in Pakistan, his name came up in another case: Dr Firoz Ganchi and Zubair Ismail (who had been tutored by Moulana Farhad Ahmed Dockrat) were arrested after a long shoot-out with Pakistani forces along with Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, (an alleged al-Qaeda member) and another 11 suspects (including a Sudanese national and an Uzbek woman –possibly Ghailani’s wife–) in a safe-house in Gujrat, Pakistan, on 25 July 2004. Gujrat is situated close to the border with Kashmir. Ghailani, a Tanzanian national in US custody, was allegedly involved in the 1998 Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam Embassy bombings. Speculation after the announcement that the two South African nationals had been arrested in the company of a known al-Qaeda operative and the allegation that plans were uncovered to attack places of interest in South Africa caused outrage in the South African Muslim community. Although the South African mission only got access to Dr Firoz Ganchi and Zubair Ismail on 4 October, the South African government maintained that the two were innocent. The two South Africans, however, explained that they had been hiking in Pakistan, an explanation not generally accepted by analysts considering the conditions in Pakistan and the company they kept (Ghailani). The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar, when confronted with the explanation that Dr Firoz Ganchi and Zubair Ismail were tourists, explained: ‘Please try to understand that these two gentlemen were picked up from a small town where tourists normally don’t go. There is hardly anything of touristic interest. And they were… in the company of a man who has been sought after by virtually the entire West… so clearly they were not keeping very good company’. While acknowledging the fact that being arrested in the company of Ghailani does not necessarily constitute a crime, he continued: ‘… you don’t end up in a place like Gujrat in a safe house… with one of the most wanted terrorists in the world’. According to a memo that accompanied Dr Firoz Ganchi and Zubair Ismail when they were deported back to South Africa, the two suspects (after being held by the Pakistani authorities for five months) were allegedly on an al-Qaeda training mission to Pakistan.
- Presumed innocent until proved guilty is an important element in South Africa’s legal tradition, yet at face value the perception was created that South Africa is politically reluctant to acknowledge or act on the suspicion that South African nationals might be involved in or indirectly support suspicious activities. While supporting and protecting citizens against wrongful persecution, a perception was created that South Africa is a haven for terrorists. Although South Africa might on a political level argue that it does not support the US-led war on terrorism and that it honours principles associated with a liberal democracy, being considered ‘soft’ on counter-terrorism could give rise to challenges similar to those Europe was confronted with before and after 9/11. While being warned by Middle Eastern and North African countries that had experienced extremism and terrorism in the 1990s, European countries labelled North African nations such as Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt as undemocratic. Regardless of their gross human rights violations and their lack of political reform, by giving political asylum to ‘terrorists’ European countries became more vulnerable to extremism and terrorism. Essentially, terrorists exploit the various advantages presented by different political systems and countries throughout the world. Terrorists are driven by interest, not loyalty.
- Direct involvement is knowingly associating through direct participation in the execution of a terrorist act.
As regards countries used as safe havens, individuals or groups might decide not to carry out terrorist acts in a particular country, based on the realisation that an attack might draw ‘unwanted’ interest from its government and security forces in the activities of a group and its support networks. Although the status quo might be maintained for a while, sleeper and support cells can easily be activated.
In addition to cases such as these of foreign nationals trying to establish cells or small networks, there is also the possibility of South African national being committed to a transnational cause and using the opportunity to target an international event.
From Haven to Potential Target
The announcement that South Africa would host the 2010 FIFA World Cup was made on 14 May 2004. As usual, notice was given well in advance to allow the host country to prepare the stadiums and infrastructure in time to host the event. However, at the same time terrorists are given an equal opportunity to plan and ‘build’ the necessary infrastructure (if it does not already exist in the host country) to execute an attack. Previous major acts of transnational terrorism took years to get in place, without raising the suspicions of intelligence agencies and security forces. For example, al-Qaeda had operated in Nairobi since at least 1993 and in Mombasa since 1994 while preparing for the 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa. Planning before the attack included:
- The establishment of safe-houses for its members and others in transit.
- The opening of small businesses and relief organisations to subsidise and act as a cover. For example, in 1993, Khalid al-Fawwaz, who would later become a spokesman for Osama bin Laden in the UK, started a business in Nairobi called Asma Limited that was later transferred to Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, a military commander. Wadih El-Hage established another business there, Tanzanite King, and a relief organisation, Help Africa People. In August 1994, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, a Jordanian member of al-Qaeda who had been trained in the camps in Afghanistan, arrived in Mombasa. During the same year Muhammad Atef, who would later be killed in Afghanistan, visited Odeh in Mombasa and gave him a fibreglass boat to start a wholesale fishing business for al-Qaeda. Under the arrangement, Odeh could take whatever money he needed to cover his expenses while giving the rest to al-Qaeda.
- Provide training.
Although the target of the 1998 and Paradise Hotel bombings has nothing to do with hosting a major sports event, a number of important lessons can be drawn from these attacks:
- The cell was able to settle in the country and evade capture. Al-Qaeda operatives spent six years in East Africa before the attack, so they knew the area and could operate easily.
- The men lived among Kenya’s Muslim population, married into the local community, set up businesses to act as covers and used locals to help with their new lives. For example, Oded told the FBI that al-Qaeda had friends to assist in business ventures and surveillance.
In planning and executing an attack, terrorists spend a lot of time selecting the target, analysing and assessing opportunities and vulnerabilities, as well as conducting their own research to secure the attack’s successful execution. Considering the time frame and activities associated with hosting the event, the threat to the World Cup starts with the building and renovation of sport facilities. On a strategic level, being able to gain access to plans of stadiums and actual access to facilities during the event takes time and careful planning, but contributes to the successful execution of an attack.
Although there are a number of differences between Kenya (and Tanzania) and South Africa in light of the preparations for the FIFA World Cup it should be noted that South Africa was previously mentioned or implicated in a number of attacks and plots, as revealed by the arrest of:
- Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a Tanzanian national who fled to Cape Town in the aftermath of the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
- Saud Memon, a Pakistani who, according to media reports, was allegedly ‘picked up’ by US officials in South Africa on 7 March 2003.
- Three suspected al-Qaeda operatives of Syrian and Jordanian origin in April 2004, as announced by the National Police Commissioner after they had been in South Africa for almost a year.
- Haroon Rashid Aswat, implicated in the 7/7 attacks in London and in setting up an Oregon training camp in 1999. He was arrested in Zambia on 20 July 2005 but prior to his arrest had lived in Johannesburg for five months.
- Rangzieb Ahmed, an al-Qaeda director of operations, and Habib Ahmed (unrelated to the former), convicted in December 2008 in the UK on terrorism-related offences. During court proceedings it became known that they had planned to travel to Dubai from Pakistan via China and South Africa as part of a major terrorist plot. While in Dubai, they heard about the death of Hamza Rabia (already referred to) and decided to return to the UK on separate flights. According to Rangzieb Ahmed’s testimony, he and Habib Ahmed were in contact with Mohammed Zillur Rahman who continued on to South Africa. Rahman allegedly made contact with an individual only known as ‘Imran’ and planned to get hold of South African passports and ID to get them (and potentially others) into the US.
- Mohammed Gulzar, who was one of eight suspects on trial in connection with a plot to blow up planes on flights between the UK, the US and Canada using liquid explosives in 2006. He entered Britain on a flight from South Africa via Mauritius under the name Altaf Ravat on 18 July 2006 after having lived in South Africa for a few years. According to his marriage certificate, Gulzar married Zorra Siddique on 30 June 2006 in Nigel, South Africa. His forged passport also showed a one-day trip to Swaziland on 13 July 2006. Although Gulzar was identified as an alleged facilitator, he was acquitted of charges of conspiracy to commit murder in September 2008 despite evidence linking him to Rashid Rauf (who fled to Pakistan), Abdullah Ahmed Ali and Assad Ali Sarwar, who were all convicted. With reference to the integrity of South African passports, it is important to note that Rashid Rauf was arrested with a forged South African passport by the Pakistani authorities in August 2006.
This possibility has raised further concern that sleeper cells are in existence in South Africa. The idea of a sleeper cell is that a person or small group of people are sent to or recruited in a particular country with the intention of being activated at a later stage in time to commit a terrorist act. The success of these operations is determined by the ability of the cell’s members to lead ‘normal’ lives without attracting any attention from intelligence or security personnel and to continue planning an attack maintaining their cover until the attack is executed.
At the same time, central role players can move into the target country to execute the attack over a relatively short period of time before the event is hosted. In this scenario, the terrorist network needs an existing cell that knows the target country. This might also involve local support, given knowingly or unwittingly.
Types of Threats and Potential Modus Operandi
The examples mentioned above provide a brief overview of the potential perpetrators: transnational terrorist organisations, small cell structures (including sleeper cells) and individuals motivated by certain principles or a certain ideology and acting as part of a decentralised network. While not all types of threats and scenarios can be addressed here, a few basic elements should be highlighted:
- The type of attack and weapon used will be determined by the objective and the availability of material. In other words, instead of using a chemical or biological agent (although this cannot be excluded), terrorists will opt for the most accessible and cost-effective modus operandi.
- Successful terrorists need to have the ability to change or adapt their tactics as required. In countering a potential act of terrorism, the security forces often prepare for the outrageous (which is necessary because terrorists also need to rely on the unexpected for success), while a lesser device or even a simple threat can cause massive damage (eg, causing panic that leads to a crowd stampeding).
- Attacks can come in the form of discriminate or focused attacks on athletes or high-ranking government officials –including heads of state– or as indiscriminate attacks intended to cause mass casualties and damage.
Bomb Threats and Bombings
Causing panic with a bomb threat might not sound like a ‘real’ act of terrorism, but the consequences can be disastrous. Preparing for 2010, sufficient planning and counter measures need to be in place to deal with bomb threats, particularly in ensuring that evacuation procedures are in place, in order to minimise panic. Based on their sophistication and objectives, bombing incidents can be categorised as:
- Threats intended to disrupt or distract attention.
- Suspicious packages or devices to attract attention or cause disruption. There is a difference between an actual device being discovered and a false alarm, although the impact and consequences are the same.
- An actual explosion that might aim to cause mass casualties or a small device intended to cause panic.
To counter the threat from hoaxes, they have been made punishable under South Africa’s counter-terrorism legislation –better known as the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act–.
The use of explosives is the most common terrorist tactic because:
- It attracts media attention, particularly if the target is visible and symbolic.
- Explosives are cost effective and more than sufficient to achieve the intended objective.
- Gaining access to explosives and planning and executing an attack does not require the involvement of a large network or cell as in the case of kidnapping or hijacking.
- There is a minimal risk of the bombers being detected and apprehended before the attack, especially if the device is detonated remotely.
- Building a device is inexpensive compared with other methods that require a basic knowledge of chemistry, while bomb recipes can be downloaded from the Internet.
- Explosive materials are easily available and include chemicals, fertilisers and commercial explosives.
Available for predominately commercial and military applications, terrorists commonly use:
- Powder. Virtually any type of explosive can be improvised in powder form and black powder is commonly used in pipe bombs.
- Improvised plastic explosives. Although knowledge is required, a mixture of ground potassium chloride and petroleum jelly can be detonated with a blasting cap.
- Liquids. Improvised liquid explosives are commonly available, and include Peroxide-based explosives such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP, or acetone peroxide), diacetone diperoxide (DADP) and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD). TATP was used in the 7/7 London bombings and, unlike nitrogen, is difficult to detect by sniffer dogs and conventional hi-tech methods, as shown by the case of Richard Reid, the ‘shoe bomber’. These ingredients are readily available and commonly found in paint thinners and only require the addition of an acid catalyst, such as sulphuric or hydrochloric acid. HMTD is less sensitive than TATP, but still dangerous, while it is more sensitive to impact than TCPT. Although referred to as a liquid, TATP in powder or crystal form is more concentrated, but also more volatile. The South African authorities can learn from other countries on the need to inform the public, especially storeowners, as to what items should raise suspicion if sold in large quantities. It is unfortunate that not only terrorists experiment with dangerous combinations, but also teenagers and the curious, often with disastrous consequences.
Although terrorists more commonly use improvised explosives, the ability to get hold of military or commercial explosives increases the threat. South Africa has witnessed an alarming increase in ATM bombings in which commercial explosives have been used. To place this threat in context, ATM bombings have increased by 3,000% from 2006 to 2008. Using explosives stolen from mines, an estimated 292 ATMs have been blown up across the country between 1 January 2008 and 12 July 2008. Despite a notable decrease in the number of incidents in 2009 as a result of the counter measures adopted at mines and police operations, it is still important to factor this trend into the analysis, as there is the possibility of an individual or small group buying commercial explosives from criminals on the black market and using them in a terrorist action. Driven by financial gain, criminals with access to commercial explosives might have no moral objections in selling explosives to those willing to pay. The Madrid train bombings are an example of the link between terrorism and crime. The terrorists had little trouble buying Goma 2 ECO (a nitroglycol-based explosive –similar to nitroglycerin– manufactured in Spain but also exported) from José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, a miner. Trashorras, a police informant and drug trafficker, had no ideological ties with the bombers. One of his drug distributors and associates was Rafa Zouhier, a Moroccan national who put him in touch with Jamal Ahmidan who wanted to buy a large quantity of dynamite. In February 2004 Trashorras sold 110 kg of commercial explosives to the bombers, who later used them in the attack. An unexploded device provided an insight into the explosives used. After investigations it was revealed that the device contained 10 to 12 kg of Goma 2 ECO explosive connected to a detonator by a 136m cable. In the aftermath, the Spanish authorities attempted to tighten regulations controlling the storage and sale of explosives. However, the difficulty in maintaining strict control over commercial explosives was made evident in March 2005 when police in Portugal arrested 11 people who had sold more than 750 kg of Goma 2 ECO on the black market.
To detonate an IED, terrorists can use:
- Electronic or mechanical timers, either fused or triggered with chemicals, including wristwatches, alarm clocks and kitchen timers.
- Action switches, including devices for booby-traps to detonate when lifted, opened, etc, but also buttons to be pushed by a suicide bomber.
- Electrical or radio signals, eg, an electric door-opener or transmitters and receivers used in remote-controlled toys and mobile phones.
The following broad categories of bombers can be identified based on their specific role and the organisational structure they belong to:
- Amateurs, including individuals motivated by a vast number of reasons. In addition to Eric Robert Rudolph (discussed above), another example of a loner is Joel Henry Hinrichs III, a 21-year old mechanical engineering student from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, who detonated an explosive device (that he carried) close to the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on 1 October 2005. At the time of the explosion around 84,000 spectators were watching a football match between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas State Wildcats. Onlookers stated that he had attempted to gain access to the stadium but was prevented from entering because he refused to allow his backpack to be searched. This suggests two important consideration:
- Security personnel successfully prevented him from entering the stadium.
- However, a person carrying an explosive device can enormous damage, even outside a stadium while waiting with other spectators to enter. In other words, it is not necessary to be inside to be a serious security threat.
- ‘Professional’ terrorists, who are often organised in small cells and are motivated by a political, ideological or religious philosophy or objective.
Placement and delivery systems can include:
- The use of vehicles, as they can carry a greater weight of explosives. The use of public transport (eg, taxis), delivery or emergency vehicles for exterior bombings can be influenced by:
- The level of access and type of device.
- The wish to cause visible structural damage.
- Explosives carried by the bomber himself. Although the weight of explosive is more limited, it is possible to gain entry to the inside of a building. The bomber can enter a venue or alternatively introduce a device with inside assistance or hide it at the venue and collect it at a later stage. An example of the potential threat of time-delayed devices –although unrelated to a sports event–, in Fremont (USA) Rodney Joel Blach planted two pipe bombs with a timer in September 1997 in a renovated house in Corte del Sol. Although the intended target was not in the house, the device detonated six months after it was planted, causing massive damage.
Thus, it is necessary for security preparations to begin well before the start of the event. In addition to ensuring that no explosive devices are brought into the venue on the day of the event, further measures must be taken to prevent potential perpetrators from gaining access and:
- Planting a device before the event, using existing items as a disguise (eg, a vending machine).
- Impersonating an employee or, in the case of the World Cup, a steward appointed by FIFA to ensure security inside the stadiums or other personnel such as maintenance operatives, etc. Although security checks can be a deterrent, it should be borne in mind that those involved might not have criminal records or cause any suspicion before the event. Although in-depth security checks are absolutely necessary, they are not 100% effective.
Of course, an extensive security sweep will be conducted before the event, but the resourcefulness of terrorists in the past and the extent of freely-available information on the Internet on the construction of ‘non-traceable’ or difficult-to-trace explosives essentially means that if terrorists want to target a particular event, they will find a way to do so, particularly when time is on their side. The only effective counter-strategy is intelligence and, as previously shown, a great deal of ‘luck’ on the part of the security forces. Intelligence agency officials will confirm that although specific information can prevent an attack, those gathering and analysing information are confronted with a number of challenges:
- Information seldom provides the following specific information: when and where the attack will take place; who will be responsible; how the attack will be carried out and with what means; and the reason or motivation behind the attack. Information often comes in fragments that often only make sense in retrospect, after the attack.
- The information overload often makes it difficult to differentiate between essential and ancillary data.
- Information is gathered by different individuals within the same organisation working from different offices as well as by different security structures. All organisations face a common challenge: how to share meaningful information within an organisation, as well as between organisations while avoiding the negative impact of human nature. Trust and professional jealousy are probably some of the most challenging aspects that intelligence agencies have to deal with.
Kidnapping or Hostage Situations
On 5 September 1972, Black September (a Palestinian group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP) managed to take nine members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage at the Olympic Games in Munich. After a failed rescue attempt, the nine athletes, five hostage-takers and one policeman were killed. The incident is probably the best-known terrorist incident associated with sport. It not only showed how vulnerable security at sports events might be, but also how valuable attacks directed at athletes and VIPs are. Although much could be done to secure the protection of athletes at a stadium, it is a challenge to ensure the same level of protection where they are housed or while in transit to and from a stadium. The propaganda value of targeting athletes, even if the outcome is the death or capture of members of the organisation or network, is a definite concern.
After the events of 9/11, any possible scenario before any potential event will include the possibility of a hijacked airplane, the use of a manned aircraft or of remote-controlled aeroplanes entering the airspace above it. Copying 9/11, any of the above-mentioned might attempt to crash into a stadium or, perhaps, release an airborne chemical agent.
Security and Pre-Incident Planning
Assessing the likely risks is only the first step in successful security planning, and should be followed by constructive plans to deal with any possible incident, including allocating exact responsibilities. This is particularly necessary since a number of agencies and/or departments will be involved in the case of the FIFA World Cup.
Basic security during the event should include the following:
- Deterrence of a would-be attacker. Potential targets can be protected by erecting security barriers, implementing more rigorous search procedures and stepping-up access requirements to high-risk areas. Security checks are of prime importance and Article 18 of FIFA’s Safety Guidelines specifically stipulates that: ‘Security checks shall be carried out on persons at the entry/exit points of the outer and inner perimeters, as well as at entry points to areas that are not open to the general public…’.
- Successful intelligence gathering and the effective interception of components necessary for terrorist attacks.
- An environmental assessment, to decide on the best course of action in response to a particular threat.
- Incident preparedness of all the players involved. The effectiveness of the security plan will depend on the ability of all, from the lowest ranked official, to carry out their assigned duties under all circumstances envisioned.
- Effective communication between the various agencies involved.
In South Africa a comprehensive plan was drawn up under the guidance of a committee that involved all the different players. In addition, a number of different scenarios were tested to identify weaknesses and to enhance the cooperation between the agencies involved.
A Sub-regional Approach to Security
Preventing and combating terrorism requires an international –especially sub-regional– and integrated approach. In other words, a purely domestic policy will not be effective in deterring potential threats. South Africa will register a tremendous influx of spectators and tourists during the period of the World Cup and although a successful terrorist plot requires long-term planning, key role-players might only arrive in the country immediately before the event. If the persons involved are not already in the country they need to gain entrance legally or illegally. If the security forces and law enforcement agencies already know the potential suspect, officials need to have access to this information at all points of entry. To be able to verify and assess the potential threat of passengers on an airplane, such information needs to be made available as soon as possible. In other words, the security and intelligence agencies need to have access to a global database such as Interpol’s 24/7, but also information made available bilaterally. Assisting the South African law enforcement and intelligence services will be their respective counterparts from –particularly– the US and Europe. Countries participating in the event will be interested in protecting their players and nationals visiting South Africa, but also need to have a direct line of communication if any of their nationals should are involved in an incident.
However, if the suspect is already known, it can be expected that he will use either false travel documents or enter the country illegally. South Africa has a long and porous border, which is not only used by potential terrorists but also by crime syndicates and illegal immigrants.
Notwithstanding the fact that terrorism is normally categorised as a low-level threat to stability in the region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) –on a political level– and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) –representing practitioners– have re-affirmed the need for a sub-regional approach in preventing terrorism before, during and after the FIFA World Cup. They will develop a new SARPCCO counter-terrorism training manual for this purpose, and if necessary investigate acts of terrorism. Since it will not be limited to counter-terrorism or the 2010 World Cup, as a sub-regional bureau of Interpol SARPCCO will facilitate:
- Regional co-operation
- Cross-border crime
- Information sharing
- Interpol facilities
- Regional training
The sub-regional approach, particularly as regards securing borders and sharing information, should ensure that constructive steps are taken to not only prevent terrorism but, more importantly in the longer term, transnational organised crime.
South Africa’s Police Service and intelligence agencies will be responsible for security. To further enhance these agencies, the government has granted R650 million to purchase new equipment, including: eight Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV) –specifically designed to dismantle explosive devices or gather information, particularly video material, in unsecure situations–; six R44 Raven II helicopters; six command and control vehicles; and crowd control management equipment. The South African Police service has also received specialised training and equipment from, among others, the US, the UK and France. In addition, the police has also implemented plans to improve its access to information. Most notably, and similar to the US and Europe, the passenger lists of incoming flights will be forwarded to the authorities to ensure that ‘undesirable’ individuals do not enter the country. Probably the greatest challenge in this regard will be to avoid an information overload, leading to the possibility that analysts might miss or disregard data that at the time might be considered irrelevant but may prove to be essential in the correct context.
Political leadership is, however, not the only essential element in presenting South Africa as a safe venue. Additionally, there must be a criminal justice response to terrorism and, in this respect, South Africa approved the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act in 2005. It is important to note that it took close to 10 years to draft, as it was necessary to create it through a transparent process that ensured that the checks and balances essential to a liberal democracy were incorporated, respecting the Rule of Law, Human Rights and due processes.
The Responsibility of the Security Agencies
Security at the World Cup will be the responsibility of FIFA in partnership with the South African Police Service (SAPS). According to Article 30(1) of the Regulations of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa as ‘the Organising Association is responsible for order and security in and around the stadiums before, during and after the matches’. Although the SAPS will be responsible for ensuring safety on the outer perimeters and in dealing with an emergency situation, security within the stadiums will be the responsibility of private security companies or ‘stewards’, as referred to in Article 21 of FIFA’s safety guidelines: ‘Safety and order must be guaranteed from the moment the stadium is opened. This also applies to the implementation of all responsibilities listed in these guidelines’. Article 21 (6) lists the following duties:
- Conducting security checks at entry points to the outer and inner perimeters as well as to any other areas without general public access.
- Protecting security-relevant areas (eg, turnstiles, points of sale, team and referee dressing rooms, rooms and areas reserved for VIPs as well as the vehicles of these persons, and media representatives together with their technical equipment).
- Ensuring that stadium sectors remain separated, in accordance with the corresponding tickets.
- Preventing fans from moving into another stadium sector for which they do not possess a valid ticket.
- Ensuring that all entry and exit points, as well as emergency exit routes, remain unobstructed.
- Manning entry and exit points, as well as emergency exit points to and from the spectator sectors (particularly those with standing areas), from a stadium’s opening until it is closed.
- Preventing stadium visitors from gaining unauthorised access to areas for which they have no authorisation and, in particular, from gaining access to the pitch and immediate surroundings.
- Protecting players and match officials when entering and leaving the field of play.
- Controlling the flow of vehicles and spectators within the confines of the stadium.
- Informing the police, first-aid services, fire service and any other bodies of any incidents that might pose a threat to security, in the event of security being unable to eliminate the danger immediately.
In addition to safety at the stadiums hosting the respective games, organisers and private businesses must make provision for additional entertainment, including:
- Exhibition halls at stadiums.
- Big-screen viewing facilities close to the stadium to allow people that do not have access to the stadium to follow the event.
- Big-screen facilities outside the responsibility of FIFA.
- Sports cafés that will also attract spectators.
These additional activities and venues pose their own specific security challenges. Particularly, it should be realised that these ‘unofficial venues’ are confronted with similar security threats and that controlling access and providing security might be especially challenging. Terrorists who hope to attract media attention might decide to avoid possible interception and capture at the actual venue and attack a large concentration of people on a site without the necessary security measures.
The Role of Ordinary Citizens and Other Challenges
Ordinary citizens have an extremely important role to play in a country’s safety and security, from reporting on criminal activities to informing of suspicious behaviour. It is an unfortunate reality that safety and security, particularly as regards terrorism, is often presented as solely the state’s business. Although the responsibility of informing the police of any suspicious activity rests with the public, it cannot do so unless it is provided with the adequate knowledge and without establishing a relationship of trust.
Although the Act does not define or clarify what is meant by suspicious behaviour, the experience from previous terrorist incidents is that the following should arouse suspicion:
- To people with a close relation with the potential suspect:
- Isolation and detachment from friends and family members.
- A sudden change in behaviour, eg, become extremely religious and insisting on family members follow his/her example.
- Irritability, including mood swings or the opposite depending on the person and type of group.
- To people at the venue:
- Nervous behaviour, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, hot flushes, etc.
- Excessive clothing.
More challenging is the fact that for most South Africans, terrorism is a remote and almost ‘unreal’ threat –to the extent that a suspicious package might rather be taken than considered a potential explosive device–. This fosters the perception that ‘it will never happen to us’ but, unfortunately, conditioning ordinary citizens to recognise the threat as real and immediate only comes with experiencing terrorism itself.
Additionally, terrorism is still a very sensitive topic in South Africa. The country’s history, and the conviction of South Africa’s Muslim community that the eight-year US-led ‘war on terrorism’ is a ‘war on Islam’, followed by associated injustices and pro-Palestinian sentiment have further contributed to sensitivity about engaging on the topic without being stigmatised as pro-American. This is an easy sentiment for extremists to exploit. Nevertheless, although some African communities are still sceptical of the US, the election of President Obama and his policy of change might have an impact on perceptions.
South Africa is host to large legal and illegal immigrant communities. International migration occurs daily as a result of both conflicts and economic opportunities and, although a global trend, it has a definite impact on security. It is only natural that people speaking the same language and having the same cultural heritage will stay together, particularly when in a country illegally, immigrants find a sense of belonging and safety in numbers. Often these communities are isolated, have a low level of integration and are difficult to access or infiltrate by the security forces. They offer a natural refuge and are vulnerable to the influence of extremists. The question of when and how a state should integrate its non-indigenous population is often left unanswered. In some cases large foreign populations have been settled long enough to give rise to second-generation immigrants. As long as they are not assimilated into the host country, inner conflicts of belonging can develop, particularly when it is felt that the host culture is not only different but in conflict with the immigrant’s, leading to further isolation. They can therefore offer terrorists a safe place to stay, where perhaps no questions are asked and may even actively and knowingly support his ideals. As an international event, the FIFA World Cup can be an attractive opportunity to exploit for the parties to a conflict to attack one another even if it has nothing to do with South Africa.
Preparing and hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010 will bring tremendous opportunities to South Africa: from stimulating a sense of patriotism to foster nation-building to creating new employment opportunities and the building and/or revamping of infrastructures. Nonetheless, with the positive also comes the negative: opportunities for both criminals and terrorists to achieve their respective goals. This paper’s aim is to reflect on a number of threats and vulnerabilities associated with hosting the FIFA World Cup and thereby alerting visitors and ordinary citizens to the issues at stake. In other words, its object is not to instil fear but rather to inform and make aware. It is an unfortunate reality that ordinary crime is still the most immediate threat to visitors and spectators, and although this paper has concentrated on the potential threat of terrorism, basic principles such as communal responsibility and involvement are essential to prevent and combat basic criminal activities. Information empowers people, and by just a bit more aware, and by not just noticing but also acting by informing the appropriate authorities of suspicious behaviour or objects, ordinary people can play a valuable role in contributing to a safe 2010 World Cup –thereby also contributing to the positive image of South Africa as a safe destination–.
Senior Researcher on Terrorism at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Pretoria, South Africa
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