- 2010 FIFA World Cup - police - racism - South Africa
White extremist group charged over bomb plot
Five white extremists have been charged in connection with a plan to bomb black townships in South African, according to police. Authorities have recognised a rise in activity of racist groups but said it would not affect the upcoming World Cup.
AFP - South African police said Friday five white extremists have been charged with terrorism over an alleged plot to bomb black townships, but insisted there was no threat to the football World Cup.
The men were among seven people arrested last month in the northeastern town of Phalaborwa, near the Kruger National Park, said Musa Zondi, spokesman for the police special investigations unit.
"They were conspiring to engage in terrorist activities, which includes the fact that they wanted to blow up areas in which black people live," he said.
The Phalaborwa group were arrested on suspicion of desecrating the grave of a senior black politician, but subsequently directed police to a weapons and explosives cache, he said.
All seven were initially charged with terrorism, but charges against two of them were withdrawn Friday. Of those charged, one has been released on bail and four are in custody.
"They were working on their own. I don't know if there was a master plan in place but threats are always serious," said Zondi.
The killing last month of white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche last month heightened fears of racial violence ahead of the expected arrival of nearly 400,000 football tourists for the June 11-July 11 World Cup.
But police chief Bheki Cele insisted the extremists posed "absolutely" no threat to the World Cup which starts on June 11.
"At the present moment, both nationally and internationally, nothing threatens FIFA 20 World Cup," Cele said.
South African Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Thursday authorities had foiled a separate far-right plot to bomb black townships, announcing arrests and weapons seizures in locations across the country.
He said the suspects were arrested in Pretoria and the Western Cape in a police sweep last month. Cele told journalists one of those held in Pretoria had been released on 10,000 rands bail (1,300 dollars, 1,000 euros).
But Zondi said the two groups were not believed to be connected, and that the Phalaborwa white extremists were not known to have far-right links.
Terre'Blanche's murder has prompted fears of a flare-up of racial violence ahead of the tournament amid lingering divisions 16 years after the fall of apartheid.
Twenty-one right-wingers remain on trial trying to overthrow the government in 2002 through several attacks, including an explosion on a railway line at Soweto outside Johannesburg that killed a woman.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told journalists there was no risk of racial bloodshed ahead of the World Cup.
"There is no racial war. It would have started by now," he said.
South Africa has dedicated 44,000 police officers to the tournament with global police agency Interpol and security authorities of the 31 visitor teams giving the nod to the country's security plan.
"We are satisfied that we have done all that we can and we are satisfied that there is no threat up to this point facing 2010," Cele told lawmakers of the parliamentary police committee on Friday.
FIFA told AFP on Friday that it would not comment on any specific potential threats to the World Cup.
Anneli Botha, senior researcher, Institute for Security Studies said that officials should be on alert for possible terrorist strikes during the World Cup but that right-wing attacks were "highly unlikely".
"I'm not saying that there is no threat. I think that one should be vigilant towards all forms of threat," said Botha.
"But linking that to the death of Eugene Terre'Blanche, and saying that people afterwards tried to arm themselves and tried to (threaten) the World Cup... I think is definitely reaching a bit far."
South Africa's police and authorities moved quickly to condemn Terre'Blanche's death, meeting with his right-wing movement and urging calm among South Africans.