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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
South Africa fears Algerian-style terror
Aftermath of a bomb blast in Algiers
Algerian-style violence could be repeated in South Africa
A South African minister has warned that his country could find itself in the same situation as violence-stricken Algeria if it doesn't take tough action to curb urban terror.

Speaking after a string of bomb attacks and assassinations in Cape Town, Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete said he wanted to make absolutely clear that the situation was very serious and the government would have to take strong measures.

"This is not the time for niceties," the South African news agency, Sapa, quoted him as saying.


This is not the time for niceties

Steve Tshwete

"Our friends in Algeria have even intimated to us if we are not taking a bold stand we might soon find ourselves in a similar situation as one finds in Algeria today. They are saying to us that is how it started in Algeria."

Algeria has been wracked by violence since 1992 when the military-backed government cancelled elections in which Muslim fundamentalists had taken a commanding lead. More than 100,000 people have been killed since then.

In Cape Town three people have died and more than 100 have been injured in a bombing campaign over the past two years, and last week a prominent magistrate was killed.

Vigilantes accused

Mr Tshwete and other officials have linked the violence to a Muslim vigilante group, People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad), although Pagad has denied responsibility for the attacks.

Mr Tshwete said intelligence gathered clearly tied the organization to the terror campaign, South African radio reported.

Bomb explosion at Planet Hollywood in Cape Town in 1998
Cape Town has suffered a spate of bomb blasts
"In all these instances where people have been convicted, people were directly associated with Pagad," the minister said.

"We've not heard a single word from Pagad to say that we are going to institute disciplinary actions against our members who are involved in any given way in terror acts," he said.

Earlier this summer, after a bomb blast in a Cape Town shopping centre which the security minister also blamed on Pagad, a spokesman for the group rejected any involvement in violence and accused Mr Tshwete of undermining the police investigation.

Police in Cape Town
Criticism of Cape Town police is increasing

"We believe that it is totally irresponsible for anybody to set off explosions in public areas," Cassiem Parker said in August.

"We believe the police need to do their work of finding the perpetrators and it is so sad and tragic that the police undermine their own investigation by blaming Pagad for that kind of explosion as Minister Steve Tshwete has done in this instance as well."

Public criticism

After the killing of regional magistrate Pieter Theron last week, public criticism of the police operation has increased.

Mr Tshwete said he sympathized with public anxiety and acknowledged concerns that the police and security forces had so far been unable to deal a decisive blow to terrorism in the Western Cape.

"We also understand very well their concerns that if we are not able to get on top of the situation immediately, the likelihood of this whole thing spreading to other provinces cannot be ruled out," he said.

But he appealed for calm, saying the police were on top of the situation and it would not be long before normality was restored to the city.

"The intelligence community has stepped up its presence here, and the police are bringing in more experts," he added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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