VIPs targeted in new phase of Cape terror

By Johan Schronen and Norman Joseph

Two attacks in five days apparently aimed at high-profile individals have sparked fears of a new phase in Cape Town's urban terror campaign.

Until now, most of the 21 incidents involved bombings apparently intended to cause damage and casualties among ordinary people.

But the killing of Wynberg Regional Court Magistrate Pietie Theron last week and last night's pipe-bomb attack outside a Gatesville hall, narrowly missing Western Cape Premier Gerald Morkel, indicate a new trend.

Seven people, including a child and a policeman, were injured when the bomb, tied to a tree, exploded outside the Samaj Centre, where the Democratic Alliance was holding a public meeting.

Public Prosecutions spokesman Sipho Ngwema said today: "If our investigations expose a trend of urban terrorist attacks targeting individuals, then we'll move swiftly to put the necessary measures in place."

"We have stepped up security around two judicial officers thought to be potential targets, but we'll work hand in glove with the various law enforcement agencies, including the public order policing unit, to ensure the safety of high-profile investigators, politicians and judicial officers."

Police spokesperson Denise Brand said police had a firm policy not to discuss specific potential targets of urban terrorists, whether an establishment or an individual.

The perpetrators of attacks also read newspapers.

"But we are assessing all aspects of the attacks and planning accordingly," she said.

The bomb went off at 8pm in front of the Samaj Centre, just four seconds after Mr Morkel had entered the building to address a local government election campaign meeting. The explosion damaged his official vehicle and that of his bodyguards, but they escaped injury.

The blast also injured the policeman and a nine-year-old girl, three women and two men.

Sergeant PJ Bukhali of the public order police was injured in both legs.

Provincial detective head Andre "Bek" du Toit said the injuries of the seven taken to a city hospital were caused by flying shrapnel, but most of the wounds were "superficial".

Startled police, who were in the parking area to keep watch at the meeting, jumped into action seconds after the blast and ran to the foyer area to help the injured.

Others hurriedly cordoned off the streets around the centre and the neighbouring Gatesville Medi-Clinic, including parts of Yusuf Gool Boulevard.

Charlotte Williams, a New National Party councillor in the City of Cape Town, was about 50 metres from the scene, on her way to the meeting, when the bomb exploded in front of her.

Crying and shaking, she told how the force of the blast caused a tree to spiral into the air and others to fall over.

Williams claimed that the policemen assigned to safeguard the meeting were asleep in a police vehicle when the bomb went off.

Police attempted to arrest her and a friend, Angeline Dreyer.

But, Williams said, she identified herself to bewildered police members.

She said tearfully: "This is typical of the new South Africa, where there should be democracy. This kind of violence does not happen in other provinces.

"There are people who want to make our province ungovernable."

While the Democratic Alliance was holding its meeting, the African National Congress simultaneously held a similar gathering about 300 metres away in a community hall.

Saleem Mowzer, chairman of the City of Cape Town's executive committee and ANC ward councillor in the area, condemned the blast, saying people must be allowed to have "free political activity".

"We had to abandon our meeting because it sounded as if the bomb exploded near us."

Mowzer said the explosion was a clear threat by faceless cowards to prevent free political activity.

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