US diplomatic mission cooperating with SA authorities over terror threats alert

Police have declined to comment, saying merely they are aware of the statement on the embassy’s web site

The South African flag flies near Qunu, 26 June 2013. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - 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.

Yesterday, the embassy issued a warning that it has specific and credible information of terror groups planning to carry out attacks.

The police have declined to comment, saying merely they are aware of the statement on the embassy's website.

In the warning, the US diplomatic mission to South Africa says it has information that terrors groups have planned near-term or imminent attacks on places where US citizens congregate.

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."

Last year, the US also warned its citizens of a possible attack by extremists against its interests in South Africa.

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.

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.

"The last time they did this, towards the end of last year, nothing came out of that advisory," he added.

South African police were not available to comment.

Following a similar warning in 2009, the US closed its embassy and consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town for several days.

On Saturday, the embassy said it would remain open.

"This will not affect operations at the US embassy Pretoria or our Consulates in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban," Harvey said.

"We are cooperating with local authorities, as we do in any investigation into terrorist threats around the world."

Additional information Reuters