A FORMER top military intelligence officer identified as the mastermind behind last week’s wave of bombings in the black township of Soweto was arrested late last night.
Thomas Vorster was caught after a massive manhunt for those behind the nine Soweto bombings that killed one person and tore up rail lines. Police gave no early details about how or where he was caught.
Vorster was named last January as the underground leader of the Boeremag [Boer Force], an extreme right-wing Afrikaner organisation that aims overthrow the African National Congress government, expelling millions of black people from the country and restoring Afrikaner rule south of the Limpopo River, according to intelligence sources.
He served in a unit of the apartheid-era’s South African army so secret that even his rank was unknown. The unit, named the Directorate of Covert Collections (DCC), carried out “dirty” killings and entrapments in South Africa and beyond that the regular army had no wish to know about. The DCC was effectively the terrorist wing of the armed forces.
However, he would have liaised with top officers with specialist military expertise. Two of 15 Boeremag suspects already arrested are white colonels currently serving in the post-apartheid South African National Defence Force.
The Boeremag is believed to have established a cell structure across the Afrikaner heartland in the Orange Free State, Northern Province and Northwest Province, where big farms provide ready hideouts for men and weapons. Each cell consists of two or three people known to each other but not to members of other cells. Security services assumed that Vorster was moving from cell to cell.
The Boeremag arsenal is said to contain – in addition to thousands of rifles – 20 or more bombs, each with an explosive power half that of the device used in last month’s devastating Bali bombing in Indonesia.
The Bali bomb contained 400lbs of explosives. The Boeremag are alleged to have manufactured canister bombs containing 200lbs of ammonium nitrate, laboriously extracted from commercial fertiliser stacked on Afrikaner farms throughout the land.
South Africa’s security services discovered the Boeremag coup plot a month ago as the result of a tip-off. Two big arms caches were discovered and 15 alleged Boeremag plotters were arrested and charged with high treason. The perpetrators were at first dismissed as “brandy and coke” clowns from the same school as Eugene Terre’Blanche’s neo-Nazi AWB – an organisation full of bluster, sound and fury that failed to win a single parliamentary seat.
Perceptions changed after the well-planned attack on Soweto’s railway stations, bridges and a mosque, together with the publication of a letter in the Afrikaans language newspaper Beeld.
The letter warned of “surprises in store” for the ANC government and that “the few arrests will have no effect on the struggle”. It demanded that the 15 men so far arrested be released immediately.