Most of the recruits could therefore take care of their own travel arrangements, though some still require financial and technical support
An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed that at least 23 South Africans have left the country to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. Women and children are among the recruits, which include eight families.
The numbers were not confirmed by South African state security spokesperson Brian Dube, who admitted that online recruitment targeting young people was taking place.
Responding to claims by an anonymous Turkish official that a number of South Africans had been deported from Turkey, Dube could only say, “We heard of those reports of 11 people being brought back. We cannot confirm this at this stage.”
The South African Institute for Security Studies released a report in April asking “Are South Africans soft targets for ISIS recruitment?”
“South Africa is attractive for ISIS recruitment for a number of reasons. South African recruits seem more likely to come from average-income families, which reduces the financial burden their recruitment would otherwise pose.
“Most of the recruits could therefore take care of their own travel arrangements, though some still require financial and technical support. Travelling on a South African passport does not raise immediate suspicion, which makes it easy for South Africans to book itineraries that would be less accessible to passport holders from other African countries.”
Dube made a further statement on Friday. “Those claims, we are going to investigate them because as you are aware we did have an intervention and have met with the Muslim judicial council where they raised issues that a number of South Africans visiting the Middle East, some can be lured into joining ISIL.
“But at this particular point we have noted the allegations. A team of our officials are working hard on the ground with the information to verify its veracity.”
The Muslim community makes up about 1.5% of the population. The United Ulema Council of South Africa, an organisation that represents South Africa’s Muslims, in Friday prayers across the country warned “Muslims to be wary of recruitment activities of the ISIL group in South Africa.”