Shock over Thulsie twins’ terror charges
Johannesburg - They were regular youngsters - or at least they seemed to be.
They partied, had girlfriends, took part in sports activities and even started a DJ business during their later school years.
Twin brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, 23, have been charged with three counts of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
They grew up in a mixed Christian and Muslim family in the Joburg suburb of Newclare and attended Chris J Botha Secondary School in nearby Bosmont.
According to a family friend, who asked to remain anonymous, they converted to Islam in 2014.
They changed their names to Salahuddin and Yaqeen ibn Hernani with Yaqeen’s new Facebook page and Instagram posts referring to Islamic State. However, his posts stopped in 2015.
According to the provisional charge sheet, between October 2015 and July this year the twins planned to “cause explosions at a Mission of the United States of America and Jewish institutions in South Africa”.
“Such conspiracy and incitement was intended to cause, or spread feelings of, terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of South Africa and in particular the US and Jewish sector thereof,” it said.
Among their two other charges are that: in April last year the twins tried to travel to Syria and join Islamic State.
However, their attempt was thwarted after the Hawks informed the airline of their intentions.
Following this, in July last year, the twins then “unlawfully and intentionally conspired and attempted to perform acts which would enhance the ability of Islamic State, making themselves available to the organisation to engage in terrorist activity”.
However, to many of their friends and neighbours, their arrest on Saturday was unexpected.
A family friend and neighbour who witnessed the arrest told The Star on Tuesday morning that the brothers were “gentle and kind souls”.
“I’m crying inside. I don’t believe what’s coming out here.
“During the raids there were bomb squads and dogs, but we didn’t see anything coming out of the house,” he said.
He said the boys had tried to travel to Turkey last year, but insisted it was because they wanted to study Islam further.
“The police brought them home, but they moved on from it.
“The one brother got married and the other works, staying with his mom at home,” he said.
The neighbour said the community was deeply affected by the arrests.
“A lot of people don’t believe it, but some have said when they converted to Islam there was no real guidance for them.
“No one is sure what to do or what to believe,” he said.
Friends of the Thulsie twins took to Brandon’s Facebook page to express their disbelief.
Rushdien Hendricks said he couldn’t believe it.
“They were my buddies in high school... we were normal friends all about women and now they’re all about bombs. This is a shocker.”
Another friend, Delcia Roper, said the twins “were never on that level, the coolest guys actually. Humble and down to earth. So sad that this is what has happened.”
Tarren Miller questioned how it happened: “These are boys I grew up with, friends!
“I am so heartbroken at this news.”
On Saturday, the Hawks arrested four people during anti-terror raids across Gauteng.
The portfolio committee on police has applauded the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) for its operation.
“The DPCI needs to be commended for the arrests of the four terrorism suspects over the weekend,” said Francois Beukman, chairman of the committee.@lanc_02