South African police have foiled a plot by right-wing extremists to bomb black townships ahead of the football World Cup, the police minister said Thursday.
Police arrested several people in swoops across the country in which they seized “caches of arms and ammunition,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told journalists in Cape Town.
One group arrested in the capital Pretoria “were planning to go test some of their explosives in any black township,” the minister said.
He gave no figures for the number arrested but said the suspects were detained last month as part of a police sweep after the end of a gun amnesty.
“It’s not one group of people who’ve been arrested around this period. It’s quite a number of them,” said Mthwetha.
“The police have arrested people manufacturing arms, manufacturing parts of weapons, manufacturing ammunition with an intention of that (planting bombs in townships),” he said
Police chief Bheki Cele said pockets of people had been arrested in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo provinces.
The arrests follow the killing of white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche last month which inflamed race tensions amid initial calls for revenge from his far-right movement that were later retracted.
Terre’Blanche’s murder prompted fears of a racial violence ahead of the tournament which starts on June 11 amid lingering divisions 16 years after the fall of apartheid.
Twenty-one right-wingers remain on trial trying to overthrow the government in 2002 through several attacks, including an explosion on a railway line at Soweto outside Johannesburg that killed a woman.