Saturday, June 4, 2016

US issues warning of possible terrorist attacks in South Africa.

South African soldiers. John Stupart. 

The United States has issued a warning for possible terrorist attacks in South Africa. Reuters. The South African government disagrees, saying that the country is safe for tourists. This is the second warning issued in less then a year. Last September the United States issued a similar warning. The targets appear to be shopping malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Both cities are major tourist hubs and important economic centers. The warning comes during a time of heightened alerts globally as ISIS has threatened to conduct multiple terror attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. 

My Comment:
Interesting. South Africa is about the last place I would think of when it comes to terrorist attacks. From what I have been able to find out only about 100,000 people are Muslims in the country, which means they make up about 1.5% of the population. Most of them are Indians who the British brought there during colonial times. That isn't much of a population to draw recruits from. 

It makes me wonder what terrorist groups are active in South Africa. I haven't heard of ISIS operating there, and I also haven't heard of any al-Qaeda affiliates there either. But this threat shows that someone is working there. It could be ISIS or al-Qaeda but it is also possible that a home grown terror group is operating there as well. Either possibility is likely, but it could also be a combination of both. 

The threat is similar to many other attacks that have occurred in Africa. Instead of spectacular attacks on airplanes or monuments, attacks in Africa have focused on malls and hotels. ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups have pulled of several major attacks on malls and hotels, killing hundreds of people. 

It's not a bad strategy for a terror group. Security is generally weaker around hotels and malls then other targets. Indeed, I would consider them to be major soft targets. Attacking these places also make it very hard to flee and if you take and hold them, it makes taking the area back very hard for security forces. 

Attacking hotels and shopping malls also has a disproportionate effect on the country you are attacking. Not only are you gaining all the benefits from pulling off a successful terror attack, you are also doing major damage to that countries tourism. After all, hotels and malls are logical places where foreigners, especially western ones, to be located at. Killing these tourists not only accomplish the goal of punishing countries like the United States or the various European countries involved in the war against terror, it also makes it a lot less likely for tourists to want to come. Ask Egypt and Tunisia what the effects of terrorism are on the tourism industry...

As for South Africa, it seems like strange place for tourism anyways. Sure there are a bunch of cool animals to look at there but not much else. And even without the threat of terrorism, the security situation is not good. Crime has been out of control in South Africa for quite some time and racial tensions are a major concern. I personally, wouldn't want to go there.

Of course there aren't a lot of places you can go these days that don't have a threat of terrorism associated with it. Europe also has a similar travel warning issued for it right now. North Africa has the same problem and parts of Asia are threatened at well. The threat is smaller in the United States but it still exists. In short, this is probably a bad time to be planning a vacation. 

I am convinced that ISIS will pull off at least one major terrorist plot this Ramadan. The real question is where. This new report goes to show that the threat could be anywhere, even somewhere like South Africa where there wasn't much of a threat previously. I still say that North Africa and Europe are the biggest targets but if it happens anywhere I would not be surprised... 

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