World Bulletin / News Desk
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for South Africa’s serious crimes unit, the Hawks, told Anadolu Agency that the suspects, between the ages of 20-24, were arrested on Saturday. They were under police surveillance for over a year.
“Last year, we stopped them at the airport from flying to Syria. We have since been investigating their activities,” Mulaudzi told via telephone.
He said investigations showed the suspects were involved in extreme related activities and intended to leave South Africa to join ISIL.
“Police raided their homes Saturday and found them in possession of ammunition,” Mulaudzi said. “Computers and mobile telephones were confiscated during the raid,” he added.
Last month, the United States and Britain warned that extremist groups were planning attacks at malls around Johannesburg and Cape Town.
South African Muslims, who account for roughly 3 percent of the country's total population of over 50 million, are largely moderate Muslims who condemn extremism.
But in the past two years, there have been several unconfirmed reports that Muslim youths in the country were reportedly joining ISIL.
In late 2014, the Iraqi ambassador to Pretoria, Husham al-Alawi, told Anadolu Agency that South Africans were joining the extremist group.
"Over the past few months, we have received information that South African citizens have been killed in Syria," the Iraqi diplomat told Anadolu Agency in an interview at the time.
He said the three citizens had been killed in Syria while reportedly fighting for ISIL.
When contacted, at the time, Muslim governing bodies in the country said they were not aware of the claims.
Several mosques in the country have been warning youth not to join ISIL or any extremist group.
In 2015, South Africa security personnel removed a 15-year-old girl from a plane in Cape Town on suspicion that she was heading to join the group.
The teenager had reportedly disappeared from her parents’ home in Cape Town and officials were alerted to check ports of entry before she was found on the plane.
Eleven young South Africans were also deported from Turkey in 2015, after attempting to travel to Syria.
Turkey has pumped up security to stop foreign fighters from crossing the country into combat areas in neighboring Syria.