SAPS ready for terror threats

THE police are confident that they are ready to deal with any security issues during the 2010 Fifa World Cup that starts in three weeks.

THE police are confident that they are ready to deal with any security issues during the 2010 Fifa World Cup that starts in three weeks.

This despite terror attack fears after an Iraqi security official revealed on Monday that 30-year-old Saudi resident Abdullah Saleh al-Qathani was arrested two weeks ago.

A second suspected al-Qaeda member, a Nigerian national, had also been arrested but had not been linked to the terror plot.

The attack is claimed to have been planned specifically for Denmark and the Netherlands when they play on June 14 at the Soccer City Stadium.

Denmark is home to cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who has been targeted over his depiction of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban, first published in September 2005.

Westergaard's cartoon was one of 12 images published in 2005 by Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The cartoons outraged many Muslims and sparked violent protests worldwide in early 2006.

Early this year a Somali man, armed with an axe and knife, stormed into Westergaard's home but was arrested by the police.

In the Netherlands an anti-Islam party is allegedly the fastest growing political movement. Its leader, Gert Wilders, allegedly calls the Qur'an a "fascist book" and wants it banned.

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo yesterday said: "We have not received any confirmation of the planned attacks from the Iraqi police.

"We have our own intelligence unit and they have not picked up anything related to any attack."

Naidoo said they met with police chiefs from participating countries in March to discuss security issues.

"All the police chiefs were happy with the security plans. There matches have have been categorised in terms of high-risk countries. For those matches security will be on high alert."

The SAPS have teamed up with the army for various operations during the tournament. The government had allocated R1,35billion to the SAPS to ensure maximum security for the month-long tournament.

About R665million has been spent on World Cup security equipment, which, in addition to the armoured vehicles and helicopters, includes sniper rifles, surveillance cameras, advanced bomb-disabling equipment and water cannon.

About 41000 SAPS officers will be deployed during the tournament. The group will consist of 31000 permanent officers and 10000 reservists, with a combined budget of R640million.

Police and intelligence officers will also work with Interpol and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO).

In April Interpol announced that 25 of its member countries would supply additional security personnel to South Africa for the World Cup.

Interpol would provide intelligence and surveillance equipment, while SARPCCO would play a critical role in helping South Africa secure its borders and ensure that people don't enter the country illegally during June and July.