Al-Qaeda: Alive and Well in South Africa – Daily Maverick
Al-Qaeda: Alive and well in South Africa
De Wet Potgieter, South Africa, 13 May 2013
The police’s specialised unit, Crimes Against the State (CATS) and the State Security Agency (SSA) have been monitoring the training of al-Qaeda terrorists in South Africa for several years, without taking any action. A year-long investigation by the Daily Maverick’s DE WET POTGIETER has revealed surprising inaction by police despite incriminating evidence about secret military training camps and sophisticated sniper training at three well-documented locations as well as several others across South Africa. These subversive activities have taken place at a farm near the notorious Apartheid police hit squad camp at Vlakplaas outside Pretoria, as well as a secluded farm in the mountains of the Klein Karoo.
The SAPS top-secret, deep-cover operation – Operation Kanu – was driven by crime intelligence, and was launched shortly after the 9-11 World Trade Center terror attacks to investigate extremist Muslim activities in the country. Operation Kanu began at the same time as the parallel investigation into far right-wing activities called Operation Waco.
Operation Waco resulted in the marathon Boeremag trial. The right-wingers were dubbed Al-Cadac by a police wit, as the Afrikaners’ plot was often discussed over a braai. Yet Operation Kanu resulted in no action from intelligence agencies, and no arrests of the alleged trainees or the masterminds.
All spying activities in connection with Operation Kanu were abruptly halted at the beginning of 2010 under yet-unexplained circumstances. The teams of intelligence operatives were recalled from the operation sites, all visual material seized and laptops with the surveillance data and situation reports of deep-cover agents taken away from them. The men were told by their superiors that the orders for the cessation of the surveillance operation had come “from the top”. No other explanations were given and they were re-deployed to other assignments.
In the wake of the cessation of Operation Kanu, British and US intelligence agencies began to pressurise the South African government to act against any possible Muslim terrorist threats emanating from within South Africa.
Top-level intelligence sources confirmed that representatives from both those countries’ intelligence services have been in the country for negotiations regarding the al-Qaeda operations here.
US and British intelligence have warned the South African authorities to stop “pussyfooting” with intelligence regarding international terrorists activities in South Africa. “The fact that no bombs have gone off to date in the country doesn’t mean that the threat doesn’t exist within South Africa’s borders,” they warned.
They have been frustrated for some years with the South African authorities for not taking action against perceived international terrorist threats.
South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations resolution against international terrorism and is thus obliged to act against any such threats.
Despite overwhelming intelligence information gathered well before the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, no action had been taken to date.
The cause of the anxiety stems from the fact that thousands of illegal immigrants from Pakistan manage to cross into South Africa, while the government appears to turn a blind eye.
Says Professor Hussein Solomon from UFS in Researching Terrorism in South Africa: More Questions than Answers:
“Pretoria’s ambiguous response to terrorism also extends into the international sphere. In October 2006, during his meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former president Thabo Mbeki spoke of the need for international co-operation in the area of counter-terrorism. When such co-operation, however, is needed from the South Africans, they baulk. In January 2007, when South Africa was informed that the US intended to place two South Africans – the Dockrat cousins – on the UN Security Council’s list of terror suspects, South Africa was vehemently opposed to this. Needless to say, relations between Washington and Pretoria soured. These incidents raise the question of whether South Africa is prepared to walk the talk in the global fight against terrorism or not. Put differently, is South Africa a credible partner in the fight against terrorism?”
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION
At the centre of this alleged terrorist network are several members of the well-known and influential Dockrat family.
The family was catapulted into the world focus in 2007 when US terrorism financing trackers have noted suspicious financial transactions coming out of South Africa that appeared to benefit al-Qaeda.
Some of these transactions predate 9/11. The money trail led them to a Johannesburg dentist, Junaid Ismail Dockrat, and his cousin, Farhad Ahmed Dockrat, a Muslim cleric. Farhad, the older of the two cousins, was a leading cleric at the Darus Salaam Muslim Centre in former Indian township of Laudium outside Pretoria. This mosque is said to be popular among Pakistani and Malawian Muslims.
On Friday afternoons, after the midday prayers, South African intelligence agents monitored several people leave the mosque and go to a farm near the former police hit squad base known as Vlakplaas. The “military style” obstacle course and the shooting range are still visible on the farm, and agents say they saw people take part in military-style training.
Daily Maverick has learned that there is an extensive dossier complied from deep- cover agents’ reports and photographic material documenting, over several years, activities on the farm.
Despite US entreaties, South African officials were reluctant to take any action beyond agreeing to monitor their activities. They asked the US to be patient as they sought to develop new information concerning the Dockrat cousins’ activities.
After numerous requests and warnings, the US decided to move against Farhad and Junaid, and thus to put pressure on the South African government to act.
In January 2007, the US presented the pair’s names to the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee for designation. South Africa had just become a member of that committee on 1 January 2007. It was hoped that South Africa would join in the request, and that all countries would then act to block their financial transactions and their assets. But, that did not occur. Instead, South Africa put an indefinite hold on the UN designation process.
The Dockrats have denied any links to al-Qaeda or any other militant groups.
“This designation freezes the Dockrats out of the US financial system and notifies the international community of the dangerous conduct in which the Dockrats are engaged,” said Adam Szubin, director of the US treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement.
The treasury said Farhad Dockrat in 2001 provided more than R400,000 to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan to be forwarded to Al-Akhtar Trust, an Afghanistan-based entity that the treasury previously designated as an al-Qaeda fund-raising arm.
To the embarrassment of all parties, the story leaked, and Reuters journalist Michael Georgy published a story in January 2007, reporting that papers had been submitted by the United States to the UN Security Council alleging that both Junaid and Farhad had acted as al-Qaeda “financiers, recruiters and facilitators”.
According to the Reuters report, they had transferred funds to al-Qaeda and coordinated the travel of South Africans to Pakistan to train there with militant Islamic groups. Both men deny these charges.
US intelligence claimed that in 2004, Junaid Dockrat assisted al-Qaeda operations chief Hamza Rabi’a (now deceased) to coordinate the travel of South Africans to Pakistan in order for them to train with al-Qaeda. It further claimed he was also responsible for raising $120,000 that Rabi’a received in the spring of 2004.
The Dockrats are a well-known South African Muslim family, who were part of the wave of Gujarati merchant-class emigres who came to South Africa in the early 1900s. The Dockrats in this story – who use a “k” in the spelling of their name, must be differentiated from another old and well-known Gujarati family who spell their name Docrat, without the “k”. The Docrats have no connection to the activities of the Dockrats elucidated in this story.
The Dockrats have over the decades primarily called Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Vereeniging’s former Indian Roshnee township their home.
We have already mentioned Junaid Ismail Dockrat, and his cousin, Farhad Ahmed Dockrat.
Farouk Dockrat is the owner of a clothing company in South Africa, Fashion World South Africa, trading as Judy Fashions, Mr Nice and Solomon’s in Pretoria North.
His wife’s parents are the aged and ailing Essops who live in Johannesburg. Besides the child married to Farouk, the Essop’s other daughter lives with her husband, Suleiman “Solly” Dockrat, in Dubai. The Dubai Dockrat family owns the Sedgars chain of clothing shops in South Africa with its head office at 9c Market Avenue, Vereeniging. Solly and Farouk are themselves cousins.
GREYLOCK, KLEIN KAROO
Three months after they were put on the US terrorist list in 2007, the Dockrats moved their operation from Pretoria to a remote site in the Klein Karoo. The farm, Greylock, is relatively close to the village of Haarlem and nestles in a valley between two mountains in the Tsitsikamma mountain range.
The farm can only be accessed by a long dirt road. Any vehicles or pedestrians approaching the farm can be observed from afar as they travel up the road between the orchards. It appeared to be a secure and secretive hideout, perfect as a covert training camp.
The Dockrats bought Greylock from the Crous family who had been farming on Greylock with apples and peaches. The Dockrats paid R2,2 million for the farm and replaced most of the orchards and started subsistence farming with chickens, sheep, vegetables and olives.
Since 2007 the farm had become a hive of activity as new buildings and a living compound were constructed. The compound of semi-detached living quarters comprising about 14 units were constructed by Malawians. Nobody from the local coloured community in Haarlem was hired for the construction work.
According to the local community, the men from Greylock always carry firearms that are clearly visible underneath their robes whenever they visit the local shops or farmers’ co-operative to buy supplies. On the farm, they are regularly seen carrying firearms on the hip and seem to have a preference for camouflage uniforms.
THE INTELLIGENCE OPERATION
The Dockrat clan were under intelligence surveillance while they were still based in Pretoria, as was their training camp at the farm near Vlakplaas prior to their sudden move to the Klein Karoo in March of 2007.
Three months after the Muslim group moved onto Greylock farm in the Langkloof, undercover agents of the police’s Crime Intelligence (CI) and the State Security Agency (SSA) followed and put up surveillance equipment to monitor the activities in the compound.
A surveillance camera was mounted on the diesel shed of a farmer near where the only access road to Greylock winds through his property. Anyone going to or coming from Greylock by road had to pass that camera and the agents were able check the registration number of each vehicle.
The agents then approached another neighbouring farmer who assisted them in getting to the top of the rugged mountain overlooking the newcomers in the valley below. There, they installed a solar powered camera that could be operated remotely.
To avert arousing the suspicions of the security-conscious Dockrats should they be confronted, the agents prepared a cover story that they were looking for a rare species of Protea, that is actually endemic to the area.
According to intelligence sources and the local community, the agents brought a vehicle especially equipped with tracking devices from Pretoria to monitor all cellphone communication at the farm. On another occasion, the agents managed to gain access to Greylock by pretending to be buyers of pine for a Gauteng furniture company.
During the time of the surveillance operation on Farhad and the others at Greylock, undercover agents had successfully planted homing devices on their targets’ vehicles in order to monitor their movements.
The Dockrats became suspicious and checked the (false) registration numbers on the vehicle. They traced the registration to a police front company that indeed appeared to be a legitimate furniture manufacturer.
But the police had done a thorough job of building a false “legend” for the operation and made sure beforehand that the vehicle could be traced back to the “furniture factory”, which never really existed.
To all intents and purposes, it would appear that police crime intelligence as well as the specialised police unit, Crimes Against the State, and the State Security Agency had carried out a competent and at times inspired intelligence-gathering operation without being detected. Yet they were surprisingly forced to stop their monitoring by operatives of an unidentified state agency.
In his already quoted story, Prof Hussein has this to say:
“Reports of paramilitary training camps have also surfaced periodically. As early as 1996, Israel lodged a formal complaint with the South African government regarding the existence of five Hezbollah training camps in the country. In March 2007, Barry Gilder, the former head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (Nicoc), acknowledged the possible existence of small-scale training camps used by terrorists in the country. Most of these trainers it would seem came from Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and Jordan. In the same month, a Johannesburg magazine exposed the existence of a jihadi facility outside Port Elizabeth, where instructors provided students with combat training, as well as training in illegal high-calibre handguns, R1 rifles and AK-47s. The camp became operational in the mid-1990s with Nazier Desai as the head trainer and his cousin Ahmed Seddick Desai running the finances.
“More worrisome is the existence of terrorist training camps on isolated farms – with the knowledge of certain people in the South African government. Clearly, these government officials believe that South Africa will not be targeted by these elements. Unfortunately, the available evidence does not support such wishful thinking. When the US, for example, was targeted on foreign soil, as in the East African US embassy bombings, there were 5,000 casualties – overwhelmingly local Kenyans and Tanzanians. Likewise, the redoubtable Richard Cornwell has noted that there is nothing preventing South Africa’s own citizens from becoming “collateral” in the pursuit of other targets. Unfortunately, this belief that South Africa will not be targeted could also account for the fact that, despite monitoring these camps for a number of years, no action has been taken.”
TIME TO RELOCATE, AGAIN
Greylock at first seemed to be the perfect spot, an extremely remote and sheltered farm on a cul-de-sac, further hidden from prying eyes by rugged mountain ranges. When the Dockrats discovered that their secluded safe haven at Greylock was not, in fact, not as remote as they had hoped, they began searching for an alternate site on which they could establish their self-described “Muslim haven”.
Several months later the Dockrat family turned their attention to another potential safe haven near the Storms River Mouth on the Garden Route. Acting as the directors of a company, the brothers Sayed and Mohammed Dockrat bought a 70% share of in a new development, the Tsitsikamma Coastal Golf Estate, for R60-million. The original developers, the Malan brothers, had hit difficulties and were searching for investors.
(Editor’s note: African Continental Development, the company involved, has disputed the facts published in this part of our expose. The company’s response has been appended to the end of the article. )
It was because of their attempts to isolate themselves even further from their neighbours that the Dockrats stumbled. They only discovered that the neighbouring farmers had access to their farm, guaranteed under law, when they tried to refuse those farmers access to a stretch of communal irrigation pipe that runs through Greylock farm.
About 300m of the irrigation canal and a diversion sluiceway bringing much-needed water from a source in the mountains passes through Greylock. The surrounding farmers’ orchards have been dependent on this water for decades and when the Dockrats warned their neighbours not to trespass on their land, the neighbours took them to court.
In the ensuing High Court case, the farmers described the Dockrats as “provocative” saying that they had been using the irrigation channel for several generations since the 1920s. The story became public when Rapport published a report on the case in September 2008. The Dockrats eventually lost the case in 2012.
The front man arranging the Tsitsikamma Coastal Golf Estate transaction through the Habib Bank in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, was Suleiman “Solly” Dockrat, the Dubai-based owner of Sedgars in Vereeniging.
Suleiman is a cousin of Farouk Dockrat, the manager of the family business, Fashion World SA. The two cousins are married to the Essop sisters.
All the money put into the golf estate was channelled through Sedgars and they took out two bonds on the development.
The golf estate is situated between the Indian Ocean on the one side and the dense forest of the Tsitsikamma National Park on the other.
At the time when the Dockrats bought into the development, 300 of the 500 stands were already sold. From 2009 the Dockrats ceased financing the project, effectively freezing the development. Three years ago everything came to a standstill and all contractors moved off site because they weren’t paid. According to the estate’s manager Greg Pearson, he begged the family to continue to finance the project so that the people could start building on their sites and the development could become viable and populated. In September of 2011 Eskom cut power due to non-payment.
Despite the R56-million Pearson says was invested in the construction of the golf course, the Eskom cuts and lack of water supply gradually led to its ruin. In January last year Suleiman Dockrat phoned Pearson from Dubai informing him that his cousin Farhad was coming to do “some remedial work” on the site and told him to allow him access to the premises.
Pearson acceded, and later discovered that Farhad Dockrat and his sons had occupied the offices where the home owners’ association’s documents were kept. There were mattresses and food spread all over the offices and seven members of the family were camping out in the building. Despite laying charges with the police, no steps were taken.
During that visit Pearson saw at least one AK-47 rifle lying in the open on a desk in the office. Farhad and his sons were all carrying side arms. Pearson said they appeared to regard themselves as “untouchable”. His wife said that on the first day the new owners moved in they stood in the back of bakkies brandishing firearms and shouting: “We are in charge now.”
The Dockrats instructed Pearson’s mother-in-law, who had been staying and working on the golf estate, to move out of the house because they wanted to live there. She refused.
That’s when she says the intimidation started, with people shining torches through her bedroom windows at night and walking around the house to scare her off. After seven months of this, and fearing for her life, the elderly woman moved out.
In 2012, Pearson drafted a letter on behalf of the homeowners’ association of the golf estate and sent it to the defence attaché and the legal attaché at the United States Embassy in Pretoria.
He also sent copies of the letter to Muhammad, Sayed, Suleiman (Solly) Dockrat as well as to Jan and Willie Malan, the developers who had started the project and who still held a 30% share in the development. An extract from of the letter gives surprising insight into how brazen the operation was.
“We were shocked to learn and it has been confirmed by the United States Embassy as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that the person appointed by you to do maintenance work on the golf course, Farhad Ahmed Dockrat (as well as his cousin Junaid Ismail Dockrat), are listed by the United Nations Security Council as being terrorism facilitators and terrorist financiers for al-Qaeda. In addition they have been listed as the United States Treasury Department per Executive Order 13224 (Terrorism Sanctions Act) as well as being listed on the United States EPLS Exclusion List as terrorist suspects.
“We protest most strongly at your placement of him and his family members here as you must have been aware of the above facts which you never disclosed to the members of the Tsitsikamma Home Owners’ Association, according to the articles of the association are responsible for the control, management and property control of the Tsitsikamma Coastal Golf Estate and would not have approved of your placing him here if these facts were known.
“With your Mr Suleiman Dockrat’s consent, Farhad Ahmed Dockrat and family broke into the locked office of the Home Owners’ Association and have in their possession property of the Home Owners’ Association as well as personal belongings not belonging to them, all of which, according to the SA Police, Storms River, Mr Suleiman Dockrat has claimed as his own.
“Tsitsikamma is known worldwide as a popular tourist and vacation destination, and this generates most of its revenue. We have now learned that since the arrival of Farhad Dockrat and his family, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has red-flagged Tsitsikamma as a possible terrorist hotspot, and this is totally unacceptable to the local community and all affected parties.
“The negative impact that this news will have on Tsitsikamma is obvious and we therefore strongly object to the presence of this man and his family in our community. We thus respectfully request you to immediately remove him, his extended family and his personal workers, all of whom reside in the office building on the Golf Estate along with their personal belongings. As a community we most definitely do not want to be seen harbouring an alleged terrorist who is a financier and facilitator of al-Qaeda.”
As a matter of right to respond, Daily Maverick sent a detailed list of questions from this investigation to the Dockrat family. They have chosen to send the following response, addressing only the Tsitsikamma development, which we publish in its entirety:
African Continental Development
The Company, being the owner of the Tsitsikamma Golf Estate, believes that the malicious allegations have been instigated by and emanate from a disgruntled ex-employee arising from a criminal charge laid against him.
The Company welcomes all investigations by the South African Police Services and other Agencies regarding the alleged illegal activities, and will fully cooperate with the authorities in such investigations.
We trust that the Daily Maverick is not being driven by an Islamophobic attack generated by a commercial venture of the Tsitsikamma Golf Estate, which has been placed under care and maintenance arising from the current economic climate; a fate suffered by numerous golf estates.
When asked for comment, Hawks spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko stated that they do not comment on ongoing investigations.
At this moment, it is unclear where the story about the Dockrat family and their continuous attempts to establish a safe haven for training purposes will end. It is as yet unclear who issued the order to stop intelligence gathering from Greylock farm and who issued the seizure of all the gathered material. Daily Maverick is acutely aware of how important that piece of the puzzle is. We have some information, but not yet in a form which we can present to you, our reader. Perhaps the best way to end this story, for now, is to quote a well-placed source in the intelligence community:
“We’ve dealt with the Boeremag, why are we not dealing with al-Qaeda?”
The link to the original article is: