Why ‘terrorists’ like SA passports

The “white widow” is not the first suspected terrorist to have used a South African passport.

East African al-Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohamed; British citizen Haroon Rashid Aswat; al-Qaeda member Ihsan Garnaoui; wanted Libyan citizen Ibrahim Tantoush; and wanted suspect Mohammed Gulzar have reportedly also used South African travel documents.

Claims this week that Samantha Lewthwaite had used a South African passport raises questions about why terrorists prefer our travel documents, says security analyst Ryan Cummings.

Although there is little evidence that Lewthwaite – dubbed the “white widow” – has been directly involved the Kenyan Westgate mall massacre, her name has come up in numerous international reports about this week’s attack carried out by al-Shabaab militants.

Read: Who is the ‘white widow’?

Lewthwaite allegedly entered Kenya last year using a South African passport under the name Natalie Faye Webb.

Cummings, a chief analyst at crisis management firm Red24, said a possible reason terror suspects prefer to use South African passports is that South Africa is perceived as a neutral country. Its passports were not easily flagged compared with a country like Pakistan, he said.

He said there was a need to find out whether the people in possession of these documents forge them or work in cahoots with corrupt government officials.

Cummings said serious questions needed to be asked about the accessibility of these documents.

“Are terrorists entering the country on fake documents and then using networks within RSA to access legitimate documents that can then be used to aid them in entering their end destination?” he said.

Home Affairs ministerial spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

» Suspected terrorists with SA passports

» In June 2011, the Somalia Report reported East African al-Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, who was killed in a shoot-out in Mogadishu, was found with a South African passport. He had been linked to the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

» British citizen Haroon Rashid Aswat was arrested in Zambia in 2005 while travelling on a South African passport. He had lived in Johannesburg for a few month prior to his arrest, and he had received calls on his South African cellphone from a suicide bomber linked to the London 7/7 bombings. Source: ISS

» Ihsan Garnaoui, a member of the Tunisian branch of al-Qaeda, told German investigators in 2003 that he had several South African passports. He had been accused of planning to blow up American and Jewish targets in Germany. Source: ISS

» Also in 2003, wanted Libyan citizen Ibrahim Tantoush, a suspected al-Qaeda member, used a fake South African passport to travel from Malaysia to Australia. Indonesian authorities deported him to South Africa. Source: ISS

» Wanted suspect Mohammed Gulzar lived in SA under a pseudonym and had a fake South African passport. He was wanted in connection with a plot to blow up international flights. Source: ISS

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