SA govt has anti-terrorism mechanisms in place

Government says terrorism is a complex global scourge and no country or continent is immune.

Belgian police vehicles are stationed near the Federal police building at Congress in Brussels on 15 January, 2015 after Belgian police shot dead two suspects in Verviers, eastern Belgium. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Government says terrorism is a complex and ever-changing global scourge and no country or continent is immune to it.

But it says South Africa has strategies in place to prevent attacks.

The safety and security ministry has condemned any form of terrorism after a series of attacks in Nigeria, Paris and Pakistan.

Government says the world is being rocked by a global terrorism.

The State Security Department's Brian Dube says there are mechanisms in place to protect South African lives.

"Since 2010, there has been a strategy in place in the form of the regional early warning centre which is meant to deal with these threats. We are collaborating with all Southern African Development Community countries."

He called on all members of society to support the department's counter-terrorism policies and to be vigilant.

"Therefore we believe we have to continue the work we are doing in terms of sharing information."

A string of recent terror attacks by al-Qaeda in Paris and Boko Haram in Nigeria have left many dead.

The ministry says it condemns any form of terrorism.

At the same time, Belgian, French and German police interrogated dozens of Islamist suspects on Friday as much of Europe remained on heightened security alert after last week's killings in Paris and raids in Belgium in which two gunmen were killed.

In Paris there was a fresh scare when a gunman took several people hostage at a post office in a north western suburb. A siege ended when he gave himself up to police. No one was hurt.

Authorities said they could not confirm whether the incident was related to terrorism.

Belgian police questioned 13 suspects and France held two people on Belgium's request, a day after two gunmen were killed during raids against an Islamist group that authorities said were planning to attack police.

French police said they had arrested 12 people suspected of helping the Islamist gunmen behind attacks last week on a satirical magazine and kosher supermarket in Paris.

Officials said there was no clear link between the suspected Belgian plot and the Paris attacks a week earlier, but described them as part of a common threat.

"There is a terrorist offensive," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters. "We face the same threat."

In Germany, police arrested two people following a raid on 12 homes and a mosque. A police spokesman said the suspects were probably part of an extremist cell that recruited fighters for Syria.

In Belgium, police uniforms, explosives and guns including four AK-47 assault rifles were found in the apartment where the two gunmen were killed on Thursday in the raid in the eastern town of Verviers. Their identities have not been released.

NERVES ON EDGE

In France, demand for the first post-attack edition of the weekly _ Charlie Hebdo_remained high for the third day in a row. One kiosk in central Paris reported a thief broke in overnight and stole all its copies.

However there were violent protests in some Muslim countries against the weekly for putting a caricature of a weeping Prophet Muhammad on the cover of the new edition.

About 200 Pakistani protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate in Karachi after a demonstration against the magazine. In Niger, a protest turned violent as demonstrators set fire to churches and raided shops run by Christians. Police fired tear gas on a crowd of hundreds of people and tires burned in the streets.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a total 12 suspects had been detained so far in connection with last week's Paris attacks, most of them known to police for common crimes. Judicial sources said the eight men and four women were detained in the greater Paris area.

Nerves remained on edge. Paris's Gare de l'Est train station was evacuated for about an hour during the morning rush.

Belgian security forces were on high alert, with extra armed security in evidence at some public buildings, notably police stations. Public broadcaster RTBF said officers were told not to be on the streets alone while in uniform. Some Jewish schools in Belgium and the Netherlands were closed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris to convey US condolences to the nation and to lay wreaths to the victims at the two main sites of the attacks.

Kerry greeted President Francois Hollande with a firm embrace at the Elysee presidential palace. Washington has said it regretted a decision not to send senior US officials to a commemoration march in Paris on Sunday attended by dozens of world leaders.

Hollande earlier called the shootings France's 9/11, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

Belgian investigators were also examining if a man detained in the city of Charleroi on suspicion of arms trafficking had any links with Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris last week.

Additional reporting by Reuters