Mayor Afzul Rehman

Durban - The mayor of Newcastle, Afzul Rahman, said he was not concerned about a terror attack during Ramadaan this month after a researcher singled out the northern KwaZulu-Natal town as one of the centres where the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) was recruiting.

The US government at the weekend warned it had received information that terrorist groups were planning attacks in shopping areas where its citizens congregate in South Africa.

Responding to the US warning, a director at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, Jasmine Opperman, said face-to-face recruiters were now active in Newcastle, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

“The next step… is the formation of recruitment cells. And Morocco, Spain and Europe have proved that once you have recruitment cells, the operation of these cells to take active action is the next step. South Africa’s vulnerability is increasing and it is time to act, now,” said Opperman.

But Rahman downplayed concerns and said he was confident the government had security under control.

He said the people of his town and South Africa in general were peace-loving.

“I heard about this in the news but I have no fear of anything happening. We stand by the statement by the International Relations Department that the country is capable of handling such eventualities if they happen,” said Rahman.

In a statement, the US Embassy in Pretoria, said: “This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State group’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadaan.”

Islam’s holy month or Ramadaan continues until July 5.

The US authorities singled out upmarket shopping areas and malls in the commercial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town, widely regarded as South Africa’s tourism capital, as the main target areas.

Police on Sunday said they were studying the US Embassy statement.

Last September, the US also warned its citizens of a possible attack by “extremists” against its interests in South Africa, a stable democracy seldom associated with Islamist militancy.

The embassy and consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town closed for several days in 2009 after what US officials described as a “specific” threat to diplomatic missions in the country.

Chairman of the Juma Masjid mosque in Durban, Ahmed Mohammed, said the religion of Islam did not accept IS, because “their actions are not in line with Allah’s teachings”.

“The fact that they are threatening acts of violence during Ramadaan shows that they are evil. I don’t see any reason why they would be doing this except the American policies to the Middle East including the invasion of Iraq, and other invasions,” said Mohammed.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman, Clayson Monyela, referred the Daily News to the State Security Agency.

State Security head of communications, Brian Dube, said they would issue a statement on Monday, but it was not available at the time of publication.