Twin converts to Islam charged with plot to blow up Jewish institutions in South Africa

Marcy Oster

CAPE TOWN (JTA) — Twin brothers were arrested for planning to blow up a U.S. diplomatic mission and Jewish institutions in South Africa.

Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, 23, appeared Monday in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court following their arrest two days earlier in an anti-terror raid. The brothers, who converted to Islam last year, were charged with three counts related to terrorism.

The provisional charge sheet said the Thulsies allegedly planned, between last October and this month, to “cause explosions at a Mission of the United States of America and Jewish Institutions” in South Africa, according to the daily Cape Times.

“Such conspiracy and incitement was intended to cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in the civilian population of South Africa and, in particular, the U.S. and Jewish sector thereof,” according to the charge sheet.

The twins allegedly tried to fly to Syria in April 2015 to join the Islamic State but were stopped after the Hawks, a specialized crime-fighting unit, informed the airline on which they intended to travel. They are subsequently alleged to have “unlawfully and intentionally conspired and attempted to perform acts” that would assist the Islamic State and made themselves available to the terrorist group in order to conduct terrorist activity.

The brothers had been under surveillance for about a year before their arrest by the Hawks, a spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority said.

Zev Krengel, vice president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told The Star newspaper that he was not surprised, but was concerned, that Jewish institutions were targeted.

“We know and we’ve always known that no one is safe anywhere,” Krengel said. “We work closely with South African authorities and we will continue to do so.”

The case was postponed to July 19; the twins will remain in custody.

A relative told The Times that the two had “changed a lot” after converting to Islam. Police sources said they are believed to have recruited siblings Ibrahim and Fatima Patel, who appeared in another Johannesburg court Monday charged with illegal possession of explosives and ammunition relating to the alleged terror plot.

Krengel told The Times that security around Jewish institutions had already been increased last month following a U.S. travel advisory.

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