Johannesburg (AFP) - South Africa on Monday sought to allay fears after Washington warned Americans of a possibly imminent terror attack by Islamic extremists in the country's major cities.
"We remain a strong and stable democratic country and there is no immediate danger," State Security Minister David Mahlobo said in a statement.
The United States on Saturday said it had received information that terrorist groups were planning to carry out attacks in South Africa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The warning said attacks may target sites frequented by US citizens, including high-end shopping areas and malls in the economic hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is popular with tourists.
It came against the background of the Islamic State group's "public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan," the US embassy in South Africa said.
One of South Africa's largest shopping centres, Sandton City in Johannesburg, said it was taking the warning seriously.
Along with several other malls, it is "on high alert and additional security measures have been implemented", said Nomzamo Radebe, CEO of JHI Retail which owns Sandton City.
But the South African government played down the threat.
State security ministry spokesman Brian Dube told AFP that authorities have not stepped up security following the alert.
"We have not come to a situation where we have to change our national threat level," Dube said.
"Our information has not necessarily confirmed what has been raised by the Americans," he added.
The United States regularly warns its citizens around the world to beware of terror attacks, but the weekend's note was specific about the targets and the imminence of the threat.
This is the second alert it has issued for South Africa in under a year.
- UK says 'high terror threat' -
The warning was followed by a British government travel advice, cautioning against a "high threat from terrorism" in South Africa.
"Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town," said an online foreign travel advice.
South Africa has so far escaped the jihadist attacks seen in several other African countries.
But according to Robert Besseling, Executive Director at Ex Africa Business Risk Intelligence, a threat of Islamist terrorism in South Africa was real.
"A successful terrorist attack in South Africa is feasible, given police ineffectiveness, serious weaknesses within the intelligence apparatus, and the lack of a counter-terrorism strategy," he said in a statement.
However, a local analyst said South Africa's neutral foreign policy did not place it at risk.
"We don't have a history of terrorism here, we have got a foreign policy that's quite neutral, we don't engage in any counter-insurgency operations either on the continent or elsewhere that would place us in at risk of retaliatory attacks," said Ryan Cummings, an analyst with Cape Town-based Signal Risk think tank.