Terrorism threats have led to a tightening of security measures ahead of the the World Cup scheduled to take place in less than a month. This follows an announcement by Iraqi authorities that a leading member of the al-Qaida terrorist group preparing an attack in South Africa had been arrested.
From 11 June to 11 July, all eyes will be on South Africa during the World Cup football tournament, and for some time now, South African authorities have been expressing fears over a possible tragedy.
This tragedy may have been thwarted after the Iraqi army announced at a press conference that they had arrested an al-Qaeda member who was planning to attack the World Cup. According to the spokesman of the military command in Baghdad, Abdullah Azzam Saleh Misfar Al-Qahtani, a senior Saudi Al-Qaida member in Baghdad, had participated in the preparation of the terrorist attack before his arrest two weeks ago.
In recent months, al-Qahtani has been involved in a series of attacks on Baghdad hotels, killing nearly 40 people in January, while several other attacks in December 2009 led to 127 deaths in the Iraqi capital. The Iraqi army, however, stopped short of giving any details on the planned attacks or how they managed to obtain the information.
Reacting to the announcement, the South African police simply indicated that it had investigated the issue. Indeed, South African officials had revealed last month that they were aware of threats from al-Qaida in relation to the United States vs England match. And Bheki Cele, South African police chief had promised to “leave no oxygen” for criminals, “petty” or “terrorists”.
In January at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, South African president Jacob Zuma assured the world of football that “South Africa has put a clear plan in terms of security. “Our police force, aided by the army and other security elements are very clear and ready… Nothing will happen.”
The announcement of the planned attack came as the South African police and army organised, Monday in Johannesburg, a simulation exercise to demonstrate their readiness during the competition.
According to South African police Minister Nathi Mthethwa “South Africa will host the safest and most secure FIFA World Cup… Police will be everywhere, ready to respond to any eventuality… South Africa will be hosting the whole world, and therefore will take no chances.”
“We are aware that terrorists like to use international events to register their selfish messages and we would like to assure you that we are ready to squeeze them,” said Bheki Cele.
With a high crime rate that counts an average of 50 murders a day, South Africa has mobilized some 41,000 police officers for the World Cup. The military has also been placed on alert, while special courts have been created for the World Cup.