A British couple feared kidnapped by an ISIS-linked gang in South Africa filmed with a BBC presenter before being taken, it is claimed.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A British couple feared kidnapped by an ISIS-linked gang in South Africa filmed with a BBC presenter before being taken, it is claimed.
Rodney Saunders, 73, and his 64-year-old wife, Rachel, were last heard from on February 12 amid fears they are hostage to terrorists.
Police probing their disappearance in KwaZulu-Natal province have also unearthed disturbing links to an alleged ISIS cell.
Mr and Mrs Saunders, who moved to Cape Town in the 1970s, had been filming with Gardeners’ World presenter Nick Bailey and a BBC camera crew in search of a rare plant, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The presenter posted a selfie with them on Februray 8 - possibly the last record of them being alive.
He wrote: "The amazing Rod and Rachel Saunders of Silver Hill Seeds.
"These guys know their South African native plants.....and vitally where to find them. They sell an incredible range of seeds online."
Sources close to Cape Town police said £20,000 has been withdrawn from their bank account since they vanished.
The couple's car has been found abandoned and is undergoing forensic tests.
They arrested a man and woman in the town of Vryheid and identified them as Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 38, and Fatima Patel, 27.
They were said to have had ISIS recruiting material, and Patel’s brother Ebrahim was held in special forces anti-terror raids in 2016.
However some of those involved in the investigation believe terrorism may not be the actual motivation for the crime.
British security officials currently warn of a threat of "likely" attacks by Islamists on foreigners in South Africa.
The Foreign Office said: “We have updated our travel advice to include this recent incident."
Under the Terrorism section on its website the Foreign Office writes: "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."
The Brits moved to Cape Town to set up an online business and were said to have been on a trip to collect seeds and plants.
Their abandoned vehicle was found in Durban yesterday almost 200 miles away from where they disappeared from.
They have not been seen or heard from since and their location seems to be unknown.
South Africa’s elite police unit Hawks said the force was investigating the kidnapping, which took place on February 12.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hawaii Mulaudzi said the arrested pair “are facing charges of kidnapping, alternatively robbery, and possible murder”.
He revealed they are also being quizzed over separate alleged arson and terror offences.
They were arrested on February 16 and had been on a wanted list after a sugar cane field in the region was torched.
Captain Lloyd Ramovha of Hawks added there was currently no suggestion that the disappearance of the couple was linked to terror.
“The couple are still missing at this stage. No ransom has been demanded,” he said.
"Our investigation so far has not revealed any links to terrorists, let alone ISIL (ISIS).
“Besides that, South Africa has measures to counter terrorist threats. We are more than ready to deal with such.
“The car the couple was driving in was found yesterday and is now undergoing forensic tests.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are working closely with the South African authorities following the kidnap of two South African/British dual nationals and have offered consular support to the family."
"As there is an ongoing investigation we cannot comment further."