US terror alert in South Africa ‘unfortunate’: Ramaphosa

US terror alert in South Africa ‘unfortunate’: Ramaphosa


South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said he was “unhappy” that the US embassy issued a warning about a possible “terrorist” in the country over the weekend without consulting his government.

The US Embassy posted the alert on its website on Wednesday, identifying the potential target as Sandton, a suburb in the country’s financial hub, Johannesburg.

A cluster of high-end shops and tall office buildings and banks, Sandton is commonly referred to as the richest square mile on the African continent.

The warning said the attack could take place there on Saturday.

“It’s quite unfortunate that the US issued this kind of warning without having any kind of discussion with us,” he said during a news conference.

“Any alarm of any kind will come from the government of the Republic of South Africa and it is unfortunate that any other government should issue such a threat that is causing panic among our people,” Ramaphosa said.

He answered a question during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is visiting the country.

He said Pretoria was “working around the clock to verify and look very closely at this message that came out of the United States.”

– ‘Very concerned’ –

The embassy said the US government had “received information that terrorists may be planning to launch an attack on a large crowd at an unspecified location in the greater Sandton area of ??Johannesburg.”

The warning was quickly shared on social media and WhatsApp groups across Johannesburg.

Pretoria on Wednesday appeared to downplay the warning, calling it “part of the US government’s standard communication to its citizens.”

Several warnings of possible imminent terrorist attacks on South Africa have been issued in recent years, but none have materialized.

A highly respected local news website News24 quoted unnamed sources on Thursday as suggesting a gay pride parade planned for Saturday in Sandton and a comedy show by a leading South African comedian of Jewish descent could have been the potential targets.

It also said that ongoing peace talks between Ethiopian warring factions in Pretoria have also been “flagged as a potential target by South African intelligence”.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told local media on Thursday that “we are very concerned about terrorism…our security organs are watching this matter.”

– Nigeria Alert –

The US embassy also issued a security alert in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday, urging American citizens in Nigeria to avoid “non-essential travel” and crowds.

South African is helping neighboring Mozambique fight an Islamist insurgency and has deployed more than 1,000 troops there since July last year.

Following a 2016 warning issued by the US and UK, the South African government reacted angrily to “attempts to create perceptions of incompetence, alarmist sentiments and public hysteria on the basis of a questionable single source”.

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