Threat of terrorist attacks while visiting South Africa

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Al-Shabaab
Al-Shabaab

The time is ripe to consider growing evidence of an entrenched Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab presence within South Africa. And the evidence is plentiful. It is not only on foreign shores that al-Shabaab’s linkages to South Africa have been made explicit. But how credible is the al-Shabaab threat to South Africa.

In a time where nations from all corners of the globe have united against the wave of Islamist terrorism, South Africa’s foreign policy on the issue has been less robust.

An al-Shabaab attack within South Africa may actually do the Somali extremist group more harm than good. If the evidence is true, al-Shabaab has set up financing and logistical networks within South Africa which are being used to fund and possibly organise high-value attacks within Somalia and the wider East African region.

Launching an attack within a non-antagonistic ‘safe haven’ would undoubtedly prompt an intense and sustained backlash by South African authorities, placing the aforementioned channels at a significant risk of being curtailed.

Nonetheless, despite the low probability of an al-Shabaab attack within the short term, the South African government cannot afford to be complacent. The longer al-Shabaab is allowed to operate with relative impunity, the more entrenched they will become within South Africa. The more entrenched they are, the higher the chance that they could become a stakeholder in South Africa’s domestic security.

Developments such as a change in South Africa’s foreign policy stance, or even the often overlooked xenophobic attacks against Somali communities, could turn a relatively benign threat into one which is far more malicious – a threat which one fears South Africa, like our East African counterparts, may find extremely difficult to contain…

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