Anti-terrorism cops and hostage negotiators are scrambling to piece together the last known movements of a missing Cape Town couple thought to have been abducted by acolytes of terror group Isis.
The couple left their last trace at a secluded bush lodge in the rolling hills of Zululand in northern KwaZulu-Natal. What befell them from the time their 4X4 made the arduous climb on a gravel road out of the valley is unknown.
Their car, a key piece of evidence, was found in Waterloo, north of Durban, on Sunday night. Blood evidence was recovered, say sources.
Two suspects, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 38, and Fatima Patel, 27, were reportedly arrested and appeared in court in Vryheid on Monday on charges of terrorism, abduction and murder.
The details of how the pair met the missing Capetonians is still unclear, Times Select reported. But it is believed that the pair checked into the bush lodge three days after leaving Cape Town. An employee at the lodge reportedly said the couple stayed only one night.
They reportedly paid in cash and left in a hurry.
It is believed that a police hostage negotiator is the only one who knows where the couple is, and that no ransom demands have been made. It is unclear whether the couple is alive or dead.
The Hawks were unable to provide details.
Two days ago, the UK government issued a terror warning for travellers visiting South Africa, according to TimesLive.
The statement reportedly said, “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate‚ including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities.
“The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). In February 2018‚ two South African-British nationals were kidnapped.”
“South African authorities have also been effective against right-wing extremists. There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against U.K. interests and British nationals‚ from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
Links between Isis and South Africa have been tenuous at best in the past, but there have been reports that Isis operatives are working in the country.
IOL reported last year that Isis fighters, originally from South Africa, were making their way home. Iraq’s ambassador to South Africa, Saad Kindeel reportedly warned South African authorities to be on the lookout for them.
A counter-terrorism expert, Jasmine Opperman, told IOL at the time that there was active recruitment going on in the country.