South African families’ plan to join IS foiled

Durban – Two Durban families and a 24-year-old man are being investigated by intelligence services after they were deported from Turkey – a transit point to Syria – on suspicion that they were going to join the Islamic State.

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Fighters of the Islamic State wave the group’s flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. File picture: Raqqa Media Centre of the Islamic State group

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The families, one with eight members and the other with three, were deported about a month ago, but authorities were only notified last week, according to a well-placed police source, who asked not to be named. All are believed to be from Overport.

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The investigation comes days after a 15-year-old Cape Town girl was taken off a flight from Cape Town to OR Tambo by authorities who suspected she was planning to board an international flight to join Islamic State, which aims to create a caliphate based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic law.

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Brian Dube, spokesman for the State Security Agency, said he couldn’t confirm the probe into the Durban families or reveal details of the investigations at this stage.

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He said that the issue of the Cape Town girl was still being looked into. “We’ll be probing any suspicions that arise. This is a serious problem for us. We’re working hard to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

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Local Islamic organisations in KZN have condemned Islamic State, but say they do not believe that there are agents in the country, actively recruiting.

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“Of course, there could be a very tiny minority who silently support Islamic State, and there may be a few who would want to go over and join. But our view is that media reports such as the one about the 15-year-old, apprehended before she even left the country, would discourage any young person contemplating a similar move,” the KZN Jamiatul-Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians) said in a statement. The organisation added that there are young people around the world who are curious about Islamic State, and are trolling the internet to make contact.

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“When they do find a site that purports to represent it, they read wonderful stories about life in regions controlled by Islamic State. Potential recruits are promised free accommodation, food and even pocket money. Some are excited by the prospect of fighting what they mistakenly believe is the ‘good fight’ in defence of Islam and Muslims,” the statement said.

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The South African Muslims Network (Samnet) said that they were concerned about groundwork being laid for a potential false flag operation in South Africa that will target and vilify the Muslim community, and that they urge government and state security apparatus to be on guard and vigilant in this regard. “Notwithstanding this, there have been education programmes taking place in the Muslim community through the various platforms of the mosques and media, educating people about Islamic State, also clearly indicating that there’s no Islamic basis in its actions, and that all of their propaganda needs to be rejected,” said Faisal Suliman, head of Samnet.

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Meanwhile, information emerging from the areas in Iraq and Syria, controlled by Islamic State, suggests the number of recruits from the US and Europe is expected to swell to 20 000 by the year end. This follows an extensive recruitment drive, primarily on social media, targeting young people who could be potential combatants, or brides for its terrorists.

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Professor Farid Esack, a South African Muslim liberation theologian, professor in the study of Islam and dean of religion studies at the University of Johannesburg, said the Islamic State was using “theatrics and dramatics” as part of its propaganda campaign. The intensity of its campaign, and the fact that it has penetrated a quiet suburb of Cape Town, moved the Muslim Judicial Council to state: “It is not an Islamic state, it is a political terrorist group.”

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Sunday Tribune