Scores of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists are in police cells awaiting deportation to their home countries, while several others are being investigated for money laundering and trying to establish a sleeper cell in Botswana ÔÇô highly classified information passed to the Sunday Standard has revealed.
Sleeper cells are groups of terrorists who are already in place and ready to act, as opposed to hit squads, which are infiltrated into the target country shortly before an attack. Sleeper cells are trained and ready to carry out attacks at a designated time and place. According to some, the teams assembled in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam before attacks on American Embassies there were classic al-Qaeda sleeper cells. Sleeper cells are loosely organized, and blend into communities easier through legitimate employment.
Most Al Qaeda agents in Botswana are believed to have used the country’s boom in imported second hand cars as a cover.
Security agents are understood to be investigating a number of suspicious foreigners who are running second hand car dealerships. Most do not use banks to save their business proceeds or to carry out their business transactions. Investigations into the company directorships have turned up names of directors in Kenya where an Al Qaeda sleeper cell was unveiled a few years ago.
Investigations have also centered on the influx of Middle Easterners, mostly Egyptians who have been flocking into Botswana in large numbers.
Botswana has already alerted South Africa, because it is feared that Botswana is being set up as a sleeper cell in preparation for infiltration into South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. Botswana is believed to be a soft target for Al Qaeda sleeper cells because of its weak finance and company regulatory regime.
Government is expected to tighten company registration laws to ensure that terrorists do not exploit loopholes in the current laws. There are even fears that some of the suspicious traders masquerading as car dealers may be using their businesses to launder money for Somali pirates who are hijacking ships crossing through the horn of Africa.
The British government recently warned that Botswana citizens will need visas to visit the UK, unless the Botswana government “significantly reduces” the risk posed by Batswana.
Botswana is listed among 11 countries: Brazil, Namibia, South Africa, Malaysia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Lesotho, Mauritius, Swaziland, and Trinidad and Tobago that have been warned to address the risk they pose.
The BBC quoted a Home Office report, which identifies bogus passports, criminal acts and terrorism as possible risks posed by visitors.
It says the new visa requirements could become law by early 2009.
It is believed Botswana is being targeted because of widespread passport fraud and suspicions of being used as a conduit for human trafficking. A number of foreign nationals have recently been arrested around the world traveling on forged or stolen Botswana passports.
A suspected Al Qaeda terrorist who had been staying in Botswana for sometime was arrested in Zambia two years ago.