SA shopping centres step up security after terror attack warning

The US Embassy yesterday released a high alert about possible attacks on upmarket shopping malls.

The V&A Waterfront. Picture: Facebook.

CAPE TOWN - Several malls have reviewed their security plans amid renewed terror threats.

The US Embassy yesterday released a high alert about possible attacks on upmarket shopping malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In Gauteng, Sandton City, Eastgate and Menlyn malls have all confirmed receiving a warning and have already implemented additional security.

The warnings relate to potential terror attacks by Islamic militants on Americans in South Africa.

V&A Waterfront's Carla White says all agencies are on looking into the matter.

"Waterfront security meets regularly and cooperates with Saps and regional intelligence. In response to the notification issued by the US Embassy yesterday, Saps has increased their presence at the V&A Waterfront."

The warning comes 10 months after a similar alert of a possible attack on South Africa soil was declared a false alarm.

The US diplomatic mission to South Africa says it's cooperating with local authorities as it investigates information of planned terror attacks on American citizens living in South Africa.

Spokesperson Cynthia Harvey says this includes upscale shopping areas and malls.

"We received specific credible threat information. It's a worldwide policy for US embassies to share that information."

She says the protection of US citizens abroad is a top priority and the embassy is working with authorities as it does in any investigation.

"We've got information that the Islamic State has put out a public message to carry out terror attacks globally."

South Africa's foreign affairs department said the country's security agencies were capable of ensuring the safety of its residents, noting that no incident or attack had taken place after the previous warning by the US embassy last year.

"The state security agency and other security agencies in this country are very much capable of keeping South Africa safe and everybody in this country, including Americans," foreign affair's ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and US diplomats held a briefing. The premier says national security agents are investigating the matter, adding the warnings are very concerning.

"We must always take a warning at this level, that is a high alert, very seriously. The US has strong intelligence and they've passed that intelligence onto the South African authorities and I don't think we should ignore something like this."

Last month, a new message purporting to come from the spokesman of Islamic State called on followers to launch attacks on the West during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early June.

Additional reporting by Emily Corke & Reuters.