South Africans captured with al-Qaida terrorist

TWO South African men, captured along with a senior al-Qaida terrorist, were plotting attacks on tourist sites in their home country, and a senior police official said yesterday.

The official also claimed that the men vowed an unceasing battle against America and President George W Bush when authorities caught them after a 12-hour gunbattle,

The South Africans were identified as Feroz Ibrahim, believed to be in his 30s, and Zubair Ismail, a man in his 20s, by Raja Munawar Hussain, the chief of police in Gujrat, the eastern Pakistani city where they were arrested on July 25.

Mr Hussain said authorities found several maps of South African cities among the items seized after the raid, which also netted Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a $25 million bounty on his head for the 1998 twin East Africa embassy bombings.

"They were all very well- trained terrorists because of the way they fought the gunbattle and the way they engaged us for 12 hours. This is something no common man could have done," said Mr Hussain. A Lahore-based intelligence official said authorities believe the men wanted to target tourist sites in Johannesburg, South Africa's commercial centre. The men are believed to have arrived in Pakistan on a flight from the United Arab Emirates just days before their arrest.

The Johannesburg daily, The Star, quoted unidentified police sources as saying that key landmarks were among the targets, including the Carlton Centre shopping mall, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg; parliament and the V&A Waterfront mall in Cape Town; and the US Embassy, government buildings and the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.

Meanwhile Britain's Islamic leaders last night warned that the Muslim community felt increasingly persecuted following the arrest of 12 men in another round of anti-terror raids.

Police were last night continuing to question the 12, who are all thought to be of Asian origin, at Paddington Green Police Station in London. The men, aged between 19 and 32, were seized in a series of raids across the country yesterday on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

The British Government came under pressure yesterday to spell out the level of the terrorism threat in Britain as a massive security operation continued in US cities. America is on heightened alert following the discovery of documents in Pakistan mentioning targets in the US and Britain.

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