Hawks officer shot dead during probe into kidnapping of alleged IS leader
Lt-Col PN Mathipa was shot at, allegedly while driving to collect information about Abdella Abadiga on Sunday night
The lead investigator in the abduction of alleged Isis leader Abdella Abadiga from the Mall of Africa in December — allegedly by SA military special forces — has been killed.
Lt-Col PN Mathipa was shot at, allegedly while driving to collect information on Sunday night. The shooting happened at 8pm while he was driving along the N1 towards Hammanskraal.
According to an incident report, Hammanskraal police received a report at about 8pm of a “single-vehicle accident” on the N1 towards the Hammanskraal turn-off travelling in a northerly direction.
When police investigators arrived on the scene, they discovered that a white VW Polo with the registration JX63PC GP had rolled and the driver was deceased.
The driver was later identified as Mathipa, an investigator with the Gauteng Hawks Crimes Against the State Unit.
Police discovered the exit wound of a bullet on the left side of Mathipa’s face coinciding with an exit hole on the left side of the vehicle.
Both the incident report and a family member of Abadiga, who was notified of the incident, mentioned that Mathipa was on duty to collect information regarding Abadiga’s alleged kidnapping.
Hawks national spokesperson Col Philani Nkwalase said a statement would be issued soon.
The unit investigates cases relating to terrorism and extremism including right-wing extremist groups and activities by the IS terrorist group in SA. Among the cases the unit was investigating was the kidnapping case of Abadiga, an Ethiopian who was believed to have been an organiser for IS in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Abadiga had based himself in SA as an asylum seeker but was arrested in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2017 after he and several other foreign nationals with refugee status in SA allegedly tried to travel to Goma, a city in the war-torn east of the country, where they were allegedly attempting to link up with the Alliance for Democratic Change (ADF), a terrorist group that has pledged its allegiance to IS and has carried out attacks in Uganda.
TimesLIVE previously reported he was returned to SA on March 14 2020, at the same time as DRC authorities released thousands of pre-trial prisoners to depopulate prisons to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
His return to SA from DRC stunned SA counter-terrorism investigators who had been investigating his alleged links to crimes committed in SA and his alleged links to IS.
He would achieve notoriety in March 2022 when the US treasury department placed him and three other individuals living in SA on a sanctions list for allegedly funding and co-ordinating IS activity in Africa.
Abadiga would find himself in trouble with the law one more time before his disappearance, this time at a roadblock near Orange Farm after he returned from a trip to Cape Town in October 2022.
“He was driving up from Cape Town, then suddenly he disappeared. I heard that he was stopped at a roadblock by SA police and the Americans, then they took him to a police station,” his brother Abdurahim Abadiga previously said.
According to his lawyer at the time, Pearl Mthembu, he was arrested at a roadblock on October 23 for problems with his immigration status. She said he voiced his suspicions to her that the US government was involved in the roadblock. She said he was released after two days after his refugee status in SA checked out.
The next day the US Embassy issued a terror threat, warning of an imminent attack in the Sandton area being planned by terrorists for October 29.
TimesLIVE reported in March that Maj-Gen Herbert Mashego told the high court in Johannesburg through his responding affidavit that he, defence minister Thandi Modise, and SANDF-linked Peter’s Communication Trust, of which he is the director, had no knowledge of the allegations pertaining to the disappearance of Abadiga and his bodyguard, Kadir Jemal Abotese, and said they played no part in their kidnapping.
Mashego said SANDF special forces conducted a training exercise at the Mall of Africa in Midrand on December 29 2022, the same day Abadiga and Abotese went missing.
“This type of exercise is conducted from time to time at shopping malls, airports and other strategic business premises visited by members of the public. The purpose is to have intimate knowledge of the mall and its surroundings with a view to have a plan to train Special Forces members to evacuate members of the public, dignitaries and other people in the event of any emergency situation and to train members on ways in which quick exit routes out of the mall can be created,” he said.
Mashego, the general officer commanding the SA Infantry Formation, said due to the sensitive nature of the operations, he was unable to give detail about the facts of such exercises.
The department of home affairs previously said that the process to revoke Abadiga’s refugee status started on February 3 2020. Two years later, the standing committee for refugee affairs finally made the decision to revoke his refugee status. This was on December 15 2022, two weeks before his disappearance.
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