Recent reports suggesting that Iran was targeting US ambassador Lana Marks for assassination have prompted South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) to state that it was aware of the threat, and was liaising with other bodies to ensure that ‘no harm will be suffered by the US ambassador’.

SSA spokesperson Mava Scott added: ‘It should be noted that the nature of the allegation and attendant threat doesn’t permit us to give any detailed updates on the investigations.’

South Africa had a duty to prevent harm to foreign diplomats working in its territory. Reports on the matter were to be distributed to South African officials and to their US counterparts.

The possibility of an attempt on Ambassador Marks’s life was raised in a report on the US political website Politico. It would be in retaliation for the January assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a major general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, although it was not clear why Ambassador Marks would be a target. It was speculated that her personal friendship with US president Donald Trump might be relevant. Iran is reported to have an extensive intelligence network in South Africa.

For its part, Iran has denied the allegations, saying that they amounted to US disinformation and agitation against Iran.

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