South African citizens ranked among the top 10 nationalities in the world targeted by major terrorist groups, such as Islamic State (IS) of Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and pirates, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
Responding to The Citizen’s enquiry, ISS senior researcher specialising in counter-terrorism Martin Ewi said South Africans were increasingly targeted by terrorist organisations in Mali, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria and Iraq.
According to the ISS, the risk of kidnapping for South African citizens is particularly high in Somalia by pirates and al-Shabaab.
Ewi added that al-Qaeda and a new umbrella group called Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali, the Niger Delta Avengers and Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen as well as IS in Syria and Iraq were a serious danger to South Africans.
“At least 50 South Africans have been killed, kidnapped or injured by terrorist groups operating in these countries (Mali, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria and Iraq) since 2010.
“South Africa is now believed to rank among the top 10 countries most attractive to terrorist or violent extremist groups in the world,” said Ewi.
In April, a South African was among five foreign construction workers kidnapped and later released in Nigeria, Ewi said.
Ewi added: “Notable recent cases of South Africans that have been liberated by their kidnappers, as a result of a negotiated agreement, escape, military rescue, or good gesture, include Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz in Somalia, captured in 2010 and released in 2012.”
According to reports, Pelizzari and Calitz had been sailing in the Indian Ocean when they were captured by pirates and kept in Somalia.
Ewi also mentioned the cases of Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were kidnapped in 2009 and released in 2010 after 400 days in captivity in Somalia; Pierre and Yolande Korkie were kidnapped in May 2013 in Yemen.
Yolande was released in January 2014, but Pierre was killed following a failed rescue operation in December 2014.
In January, the director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, Jasmine Opperman, mentioned on Talk Radio 702 that South Africa had become a target for terrorism. – firstname.lastname@example.org