South Africa will launch an investigation into recruitment by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in the country, after an Al Jazeera investigation revealed that at least 23 South Africans had joined the group, the Ministry of State Security has said.
Brian Dube, spokesperson for State Security, said on Saturday that the ministry would be looking into the findings made in an Al Jazeera investigation published on Friday that entire families had travelled to ISIL-held territory.
Dube’s comments came after David Mahlobo, minister of State Security, told South African television channel ENCA on Friday that officials were working hard to verify the information revealed by Al Jazeera.
“Those claims, we are going to investigate them because as you are aware we did have an intervention and have met with the Muslim judicial council where they raised issues that a number of South Africans visiting the Middle East, some can be lured into joining ISIL.
“But at this particular point we have noted the allegations. A team of our officials are working hard on the ground with the information to verify its veracity,” Dube said.
On Friday, Al Jazeera revealed entire families had left South Africa to join ISIL. Furthermore, a Turkish official told Al Jazeera that “about a dozen” other South Africans had been deported from the country for trying to enter ISIL-held territory. South Africa’s state security would neither confirm nor deny the April deportations.
Turkey also revealed they were working with governments around the globe to impede would-be recruits from using Turkey as a transit point, adding that up to 14,500 people worldwide were on a “no fly” list to the country.
A recent report by the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies claims that South Africa is an attractive host for ISIL recruitment.
According to the report, “South African recruits seem more likely to come from average-income families, which reduces the financial burden their recruitment would otherwise pose,” thus enabling recruits to travel at their own expense.
The report also found that a South African passport is also less likely to raise immediate suspicion, “which makes it easy for South Africans to book itineraries that would be less accessible to passport holders from other African countries”.
At least two South Africans have died while engaged in combat, though experts say that most South Africans travelling to join ISIL are doing so to lend assistance with administration in ISIL-held territories.
The Muslim community makes up 1.5 percent of South Africa’s population, and while rumours of ISIL recruitment have circulated among them for some months, revelations of the numbers of people who have already joined ISIL have inspired strong reactions.
On Friday, United Ulema Council of South Africa (UCSA), an umbrella body of Muslim organisations in the country, released a nationwide Khutba (sermon) during Friday prayers “encouraging Muslims to be wary of recruitment activities of the ISIL group in South Africa”.
The sermon, scheduled for Friday, is the latest in a series of public lectures and messages disseminated by Muslim organisations against ISIL.