The US has warned that Islamic State (IS) members in South Africa are playing a key role in transferring money to the group’s branches across the continent.
This comes after the US imposed sanctions against four alleged Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) and Isis-Mozambique (Isis-M) facilitators based in South Africa.
Among the four men is alleged Durban Isis cell leader, Farhad Hoomer. He was arrested in 2018, but later released along with his associates, for their alleged involvement in a plan to deploy improvised explosive devices near a mosque and commercial and retail buildings in the region.
The case against them was thrown out of court because of delays by the prosecution in submitting evidence. Mr Hoomer was never asked to plead in court and has threatened to sue the state for damages.
On Tuesday, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also listed three others, aside from Mr Hoomer, as being sanctioned including one Ethiopian and one Tanzanian national.
They are allegedly linked to recruitment, robberies, kidnapping and extortion. They have not commented on the accusations.
The OFAC has said that IS members and associates in South Africa are “playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the transfer of funds from the top of the ISIS hierarchy to branches across Africa”.
They say IS has recently attempted to “expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas where government control is limited”.
The sanctions mean the four men are effectively blocked from doing business with the United States.
In response to the sanctions, South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has urged the country’s finance minister to act against terrorism financing.
It said in a statement that “South Africa’s robust financial system should not be a safe haven for terrorism, nor should it be subject to abuse by terrorists who harm innocent people on our continent and abroad”.