About 80 to 100 South Africans who have been at Islamic State camps abroad have returned home.
This is according to Na’eem Jeenah, director of the Afro-Middle East Centre (Amec), a think tank which focuses on research across North Africa and the Middle East on security and terrorism.
The centre hosted a seminar on Wednesday in Sydenham, Durban, on South Africa’s connection to Isis.
“We have had a number of returnees, about 80 to a 100, especially families. They are almost definitely under surveillance. Upon their return, they were interviewed by the State Security Agency (SSA) before being released and the government has been involved in ensuring their proper repatriation,” said Jeenah.
The SSA could not disclose specific information about operational matters. Spokesperson Lebohang Mafokosi said it monitored all potential threats and their impact on the state.
Jeenah added that South Africa was not an Isis target. He said the objective of Isis was to take and hold territory, and to attack the “near enemy”, such as Iraq and Syria, which would indirectly be an attack on the “far enemy”, such as the US.
“Attacks on Western targets come when those countries declare military war against Isis. South Africa has not declared itself at war with Isis,” he said.
Jeenah said people were using recent incidents to create hysteria.
“This is being done by those who want to convince the public that Isis is targeting South Africa in order for an agenda to get government to act in a particular way and create certain partnerships.”
He was referring to recent incidents in Durban where incendiary devices were planted across the city and at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Verulam which saw an attack earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, Farhad Hoomer and 10 others accused of terrorism-related charges at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court were released on bail this week.
Chairperson of the Imam Hussein Mosque, Azad Seedat, said they were disappointed that the accused had been granted bail. He said the attack on the mosque was a hate crime which was the result of indoctrination.
“You reach a stage in that indoctrination when you want to give your life for what you believe in, which leads to extremism and this extremist ideology,” he said.
Seedat said he had witnessed people leave the country to join such forces abroad.