The QE2 liner was among the targets selected by two South Africans – captured in Pakistan along with a senior al-Qaida terrorist – who were plotting attacks on tourist sites in their home country, it was reported today.
Raja Munawar Hussain, the chief of police in Gujrat, the eastern Pakistani city where they were arrested, said several maps of South African cities were among the items seized after the raid, which also netted Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a £13.7m (€2.07m) 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 gun battle and the way they engaged us for 12 hours. This is something no common man could have done,” said Hussain.
A Lahore-based intelligence official said 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.
Johannesburg newspaper, ThisDay, said the British liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was a target that was supposed to be attacked when it arrived in Durban or Cape Town from Mauritius.
Another newspaper, The Star, quoted police sources as saying that key landmarks among the targets included 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.
Ronnie Mamoepa, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs refused to confirm the reports.