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UK Cautions British Nationals in South Africa Against Terrorism Threats

by Thaabit Kamaar

South Africa – The UK Foreign Office has issued a terrorism alert for British and UK citizens travelling to South Africa, cautioning them about potential threats. They have warned that British nationals may be targeted by specific groups or individuals, emphasising the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the country. 

As a precaution, they have advised travellers to exercise vigilance in public spaces and areas frequented by foreigners, which could be potential targets for terrorist activities.

The alert also links the heightened risk to Israel’s increased aggression in the Occupied Palestinian territories and their war on Gaza, suggesting that terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda and Daesh might exploit this situation to incite attacks. These attacks, they warn, could be indiscriminate and unpredictable.

Despite this warning, Willem Els, Senior Training Coordinator at the Institute for Security Studies, urges South Africans not to succumb to fear. He highlights that while terrorism is a concern, the country faces a more significant threat from violent crime. 

Els emphasises that the real danger in the country lies not only in organised terror groups but also primarily in “lone wolves” influenced by terrorist propaganda, who may choose to target specific groups of people and locations. However, he reassures that South African authorities have measures and protocols to mitigate such risks and deter potential threats.

“Even after the attack in Russia, we saw the group who accepted responsibility go on various media platforms promoting and promoting lone wolf attacks … These people who are open to this media propaganda [are more likely] to act unilaterally [and that is the danger].”

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Protocols the UK Foreign Office Had to Follow

It’s crucial to understand that travel warnings posted on embassy websites globally serve to keep citizens well-informed about potential risks and dangers in specific countries.

Els emphasised that the individuals and intelligence agencies responsible for issuing these warnings meticulously assess various factors, including crime rates, political stability, natural disasters, and terrorism threats, to gauge the safety of a destination.

However, given the current geopolitical climate, some South Africans perceive the terrorism alert as a diplomatic jab from the UK, especially considering the contrasting political stances on ongoing conflicts in Russia and Palestine.

Nevertheless, Els questions whether the UK government meant to incite panic and speculation in South Africa, ultimately, he believes that was not their intent. However, he did criticise them for not adhering to established processes and protocols for issuing terrorism warnings in foreign countries.

These protocols involve sharing intelligence and information with both nations for thorough discussion and investigation by their intelligence agencies. Only after such investigations, with all relevant facts considered, is a decision made regarding the threat’s credibility and how to proceed after that.

“I doubt it was the intention of the British government to blow this out of [proportion]. But what we can say is before issuing a warning like that, there are procedures and protocols they have to follow. Otherwise, it’ll jeopardise their relationship with South Africa.”

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