South African authorities urge vigilance after robberies of visitors

Thursday, June 10, 2010

WCup visitors warned after robberies

JOHANNESBURG — South African authorities are urging World Cup visitors to be extra careful following a spate of robberies targeting foreign journalists and players.

Several Chinese journalists were mugged in the center of Johannesburg on Wednesday, the same day armed men robbed three foreign journalists in the country’s northwest region. Three members of the Greek team said money was stolen from their hotel rooms.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, and the thefts were a reminder of dangers that face hundreds of thousands of fans coming to watch the monthlong tournament.

The government sought to reassure visitors, saying it has 190,000 policemen on duty. And Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local organizing committee, said Thursday he was “comfortable” with the level of security.

“Policing of the country and ensuring the safety and security of all within it remains a 24-hour operation,” said Themba Maseko, a government spokesman. “Those in distress are requested to report to relevant authorities and the appropriate assistance will be rendered.”

FIFA spokesman Wolfgang Eichler confirmed the mugging of a group of Chinese journalists on a downtown Johannesburg street.

A Chinese media report said four journalists were held up by armed men and robbed of cash and a camera.

Early Wednesday, thieves sneaked into Nutbush Boma Lodge outside of Magaliesburg, 75 miles northwest of Johannesburg, and robbed three journalists — two from Portugal, one from Spain — of money, camera equipment, laptop computers and mobile phones. Police said three suspects were arrested and some of the property was returned to the victims.

Three Greek players had money stolen from their hotel rooms at the beach resort of Umhlanga Rocks near Durban on Tuesday, said Lt. Col. Leon Engelbrecht of the South African police.

The unidentified players reported $1,900 was stolen from their rooms at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Engelbrecht said. He said the Greek team told police it did not want to open a case.

“It’s not that somebody entered the hotel, a thief, and he opened the doors and got inside the rooms,” said Greece team spokesman Panos Korkodeilos. “It looks like it’s something else; that can happen anywhere. And it has happened to us in the past, not in South Africa.”

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