South African police have arrested four people for suspected involvement in terror-related activities in the Johannesburg area, it was revealed on Sunday.
The arrests followed prolonged investigations by special anti-crime unit, the Hawks, and state security agencies, into possible terror related activities, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani said.
He did not identified the names of the suspects but said they are between 20 and 24-years-old.
Hangwani said the National Intervention Unit, the Bomb Squad and other law enforcement agencies aided in the arrests.
The four suspects were identified after they attempted to travel to Syria in 2015.
“Investigations showed they intended to join terrorist group ISIS,” Hangwani told News24, a local news outlet.
The Hawks swooped on the suspects’ locations, seizing several items for analysis.
Meanwhile, Hawks national head, Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, said the arrests were a “very big step forward in the fight against terrorism.”
“But we cannot say that the problem has been solved. (These) terrorist organizations are recruiting in our country… law enforcement agencies will continue to work around the clock to prevent any form of recruitment on our soil,” he was quoted as saying.
Ntlemeza said authorities would remain on high alert and diffuse any attempts to form any terrorist groups in the country.
“Our people should also be vigilant and report any suspicious activities to the police,” he said.
Last month, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria said the U.S. government had received information that terrorist groups were planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where U.S. citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
But the South African government downplayed the alert at that time, saying there is no need to panic.
The terror alert by the Americans was “sketchy, dubious and unsubstantiated,” said Clayson Monyela, spokesperson of the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation.