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Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 22:40 UK

South Africa police defend World Cup security plans

Soldier looks at stadium
The Cape Town Stadium is one of 10 venues under close watch in South Africa

By Dan Roan
BBC sports news correspondent

South African police insist their World Cup security plans are adequate despite threats made ahead of England's match against the United States.

An Algeria-based cell, claiming to be a branch of terrorist group al-Qaeda, said it will strike on 12 June on the day of the Group C match in Rustenberg.

An online article refers to an "explosion causing hundreds of deaths".

But police chief Vishnu Naidoo said: "We have not identified any specific threats in reference to this article."

He added: "The credibility of the report must be questioned, but we will test the content. We cannot ignore it."

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke said football's governing body is taking the threat seriously, but emphasised that every precaution would be taken to ensure fans' safety.

"It does not mean that because we receive a threat the World Cup should not be allowed to be contested in South Africa or any other country," said Valcke.

It is unusual, to say the least, for al-Qaeda and affiliate organisations to give advance notice of their precise target and the tactic they will use

Professor Paul Wilkinson, St Andrews University

"We have freedom in the world to celebrate what we want. As the management of the organisation that governs world football, we know there is a threat.

"We will not stop the organisation of the World Cup because we got the threat.

"We put in place all what we can in terms of security and we are working with this threat at the ministerial level and with security agencies worldwide to ensure that nothing happens in South Africa.

"Not only are we working with the participating countries, but with everyone that can help prevent attacks."

The threats were made on what claims to be the jihadist online magazine of the North Africa terror group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a militant organisation based in Algeria.

The group said it will use a form of undetectable explosive that will evade security checkpoints.

Experts the BBC has spoken to suggest the author of the article is a "prominent jihadist" but threats he has made in the past, including attacks during the German elections, were not carried out.

But Naidoo, senior superintendent with the South African police, insisted the country's security measures are capable of dealing with any form of threat.

"Interpol will be based in South Africa during the duration of the tournament," he told BBC Sport.

"They have also established a database of all persons involved in organised crime, from hooliganism to terrorism.

"No-one from that database will be allowed here. We also have our own intelligence community here, the police, army, secret service, working on a daily basis, monitoring potential threats.

"Our police officers are being trained by the American police to combat chemical, biological and nuclear attacks."

However, Professor Paul Wilkinson of St Andrews University, one of the country's leading security experts, told the BBC the threat should be taken seriously.

"It is genuine and very similar to many other al-Qaeda websites," he said. "That doesn't mean what is stated on such websites is to be believed.

South African police officers walk past giant football (file photo)
South Africa's police force is confident it is well prepared for the World Cup

"On the other hand, the message may have the effect of mobilising an individual or group to carry out an attack and it is essential for the authorities to increase security.

"It is unusual, to say the least, for al-Qaeda and affiliate organisations to give advance notice of their precise target and the tactic they will use.

"However, the authorities can't afford to ignore it, because people reading this message will include militants who might think this is something they want to do.

"The deliberate pinpointing of this match highlights the hatred al-Qaeda has for our country and the United States."

Meanwhile, the AP news agency has reported that Fifa president Sepp Blatter has been assured that the murder of right-wing South Africa politician Eugene Terreblanche will not affect the tournament.

Terreblanche, the leader of the Afrikaner Resistance movement the AWB, was killed last week, sparking tension between his supporters and parts of the country's black population.

"We have received indirect assurances from the government, through the South African ambassador in Switzerland," Blatter is quoted as saying.

"This affair is being dealt with internally in the country - this group does not want revenge during the World Cup.

"One can never say that security will be 100% - but security is not the business of a sporting organisation but a matter for the state."

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see also
Terreblanche buried amid tension
09 Apr 10 |  Africa
Is South Africa ready for 2010?
11 Jun 09 |  Football
Cricket test for 2010 World Cup
21 Apr 09 |  African
Guide to the teams at South Africa 2010
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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