JOHANNESBURG – The United States has warned its citizens that extremists may be targetting US interests in South Africa.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the US Diplomatic Mission in Pretoria said, “The US Diplomatic Mission to South Africa has received information that extremists may be targeting US interests in South Africa, to possibly include US Government facilities and other facilities identifiable with US business interests. There is no additional information as to timing or potential targeting.”
The mission went further to advise US citizens to review personal security plans, remain aware of surroundings, including local events, monitor local news stations for updates and follow instructions from local authorities.
Embassy spokesperson Cindy Harvey said the embassy had received, “specific, credible, non-counterable threat information” and so had issued a security and emergency message to its citizens on its embassy website.
Harvey declined to elaborate on the nature of the threat. She added that the State Department had “no higher priority than the protection of US citizens overseas. Security Messages do not reflect the nature of our bilateral relations with a country. They are part of our commitment to protect US citizens travelling and residing abroad,” she added, apparently anticipating that the South African government might not like the terrorist threat warning.
“The US government, as it does in any investigation into terrorist threats against American interests around the world, will cooperate with South African authorities,” Harvey said.
The last security alert that the United States issued in South Africa was in 2010. Then, the US government warned its citizens that South Africa faced a heightened risk of terrorism during the World Cup.
In 2009 all US embassy buildings in South Africa were shut down for three days because of an unspecified terrorist threat. South African intelligence sources said then that they had intercepted messages between members of the extremist Islamist organisation Al-Shabaab in Somalia and its agents in South Africa threatening to attack US embassy interests in revenge for the US killing one of their leaders in Somalia.
The US embassy in Pretoria and its consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town appeared to be operating normally on Tuesday after the security message was posted.
South African intelligence sources said they could not comment yet.
eNCA American correspondent Simon Marks said further information will come from the US State Department that is due to address the media later on Tuesday.
It should be noted that the 14th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Centres on September 11, 2001 is coming up so there have been various warnings, however, the warning does appear to be very specific to South Africa.
– Additional reporting by ANA