No terror threat to World Cup, says police chief

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The Independent Online

The World Cup faces no terror threat at the moment, according to South Africa's police minister who dismissed speculation less than two weeks before the tournament opens about plots by groups ranging from al-Qa'ida to home-grown white militants.

"It would be folly for any country to grandstand and proclaim that it is immune to terror attacks," Nathi Mthethwa, the police minister, told reporters in Johannesburg. "But "there is no threat to South Africa as we speak now."

If a threat were to emerge before the tournament kicks off on 11 June, his forces would be ready, he said. The minister also dismissed concerns that while South African security forces were prepared to respond, its intelligence agencies would be stretched to prevent an attack.

South African investigators went to Iraq after security forces there announced they had arrested an alleged al-Qa'ida militant who had talked to friends about attacking Danish and Dutch teams at the World Cup. Mr Mthethwa said investigators dismissed that threat.

STRATFOR, a private security think tank based in Austin, Texas, said in a pre-World Cup review of South Africa that it was unlikely that groups like al-Qa'ida had the capacity to carry out a major attack there.

Mr Mthethwa also said there was nothing to substantiate a weekend report in a South African newspaper about terror cells and training camps in the region, and at least one arrest in South Africa linked to the World Cup. And white South African extremists arrested in recent weeks for stockpiling weapons were a "lunatic fringe", and no threat to the tournament, he said.

The US State Department made a similar point about World Cup security last week when it issued a warning to Americans living in South Africa or travelling there.

While a number of terrorist threats against the World Cup in South Africa have appeared in the media in recent weeks and months, the US government has no information "on any specific, credible threat of attack that any individual or group is planning to coincide with the tournament," it said.

In what could be read as a vote of American confidence in South Africa's security preparations, Vice-President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend the US's game against England, on 12 June in Rustenburg.

Terrorists have previously attacked events like the World Cup – including the 1972 Munich Olympics, when Palestinian gunmen took hostage athletes and coaches from Israel's Olympic team, killing 11.