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SOUTH AFRICA: Bombs aimed at destabilising country

SOUTH AFRICA: Bombs aimed at destabilising country, Mbeki

JOHANNESBURG, 30 Oct 2002 (IRIN) - President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday appealed to South Africans to stay calm in the wake of a series of overnight bomb explosions that rocked the country's biggest township.

The president condemned what he said were criminal acts by people "seeking to introduce a terrorist campaign in this country".

Nine bombs exploded across Soweto, about 25-km south-west of Johannesburg in the early hours of Wednesday, killing one person and injuring another. Several of the explosions targeted railway lines linking Soweto to Johannesburg, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.

Although not blaming the far right wing directly for the blasts, Mbeki told a media conference: "The information the security forces had gathered about a handful of people [recently] was that they intended to conduct a campaign to destabilise the country, increase a sense of uncertainty and create a climate for political change with bolder actions."

Police were put on high alert following a 10th blast at a Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstpruit, a town east of the capital, Pretoria, later on Wednesday. It was unclear if the blast was linked to the Soweto explosions.

"There is a lot of information and a task team has been appointed to deal with this case. Forensic experts are investigating the various scenes. Police are sifting through the information ... [however], we are still unsure what type of explosives were used. Although the bombs appeared to be home-made," police Superintendent Henriette Bester told IRIN.

So far, no person or group has claimed responsibility.

Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi on Wednesday was reported as saying that two white men were seen acting suspiciously in Soweto shortly before the explosions and that a major organisation was suspected of being behind the blasts.

Recently, a group of white extremists went on trial for allegedly plotting to violently overthrow the government. A series of police raids put an end to the alleged plot.

Mbeki said it was important to understand that the handful of people responsible for the bombings were a common enemy of all South Africans, black and white, and that they would certainly fail in their efforts to intimidate millions of people.

The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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