South Africa: 'imminent terrorist threat' in Johannesburg

    Both the UK and America have warned travellers to avoid crowds in the Sandton area near Johannesburg this weekend

    Britons in South Africa have been told to avoid crowds in part of Johannesburg this weekend, after American spies warned of a possible terrorist attack.

    The Foreign Office updated UK travel advice following Washington's alert that terrorists “may be planning to conduct an attack targeting large gatherings of people at an unspecified location in the greater Sandton area”, an affluent financial district outside the city home to a US consulate.

    Intelligence officials are reported to have become concerned by a seven-member cell with links to Islamic State group jihadists.

    While security figures said the cell's potential target was not known, there was speculation that a gay pride event, a show by a Jewish comedian and peace talks to halt the Tigray War could all be vulnerable.

    Sandton, north of Johannesburg's centre, is renowned as one of the country's richest municipalities and home to many of South Africa's biggest companies.

    New South Africa travel advice following a security alert by the US Government about a possible terrorist attack in the Sandton area of Johannesburg on 29 Oct.
    You should stay away from crowds and large public gatherings in the Sandton area on 29/30 Oct. 26, 2022

    Financial services group FirstRand, chemicals company Sasol, insurer and bank Discovery, Bank of America, Citigroup, and numerous law firms and auditors have their headquarters in Sandton. Shops and malls also attract crowds of tourists and locals at weekends.

    The British High Commission said: “You should stay away from crowds of people and other large public gatherings in the greater Sandton area.”

    British counter terrorism officials have previously warned that the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh or Isis, could launch indiscriminate attacks at sites such as shopping centres.

    The South African government appeared to downplay America's warning.

    “Should the need arise, the South African government will be the first to inform the public about any imminent threat," a presidential spokesman said.

    Washington's alert also appeared to irritate President Cyril Ramaphosa.

    He said: "It is quite unfortunate the US issued that type of warning without having any type of discussion with us."

    But security sources told the News24 agency that the country's spy agency had been tipped off by Washington several days ago and had tracked the cell, but had not informed ministers.

    Shopping centres and businesses in Sandton said they were stepping up security, but remaining open.

    Several alerts have been issued about possible imminent terrorist attacks on South Africa in recent years, but none have materialised.

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

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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