Thursday, July 21, 2016

21-Jul-16: As the Olympics approach, Brazilian jihad comes into focus

In Rio, Brazilian security forces do their work a week ago [Image Source]
Ready, set...

Yesterday, a news report from the country hosting the upcoming Olympic Games that get started on August 5 ["Brazil Not Underestimating Olympic Terror Threat, Says Minister", Voice of America, July 20, 2016] quoted its sports minister saying that Brazil
was not underestimating the threat of terrorism and was taking all necessary measures ahead of next month's games in Rio de Janeiro... "The government has adopted all the measures recommended by inter-national security protocols... The government is absolutely convinced that the Games will be safe." ...Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper he is more concerned about violence and street crime, problems that affect Rio on a daily basis. "Crime is more of a worry than terrorism and that is why we are reinforcing patrols," he said. Brazil plans to deploy about 85,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel during the Olympics — over twice the size of the security force in London for the 2012 Games.
Twenty-fours later, and things already look a little different compared with the plan. Reuters reported this evening (Thursday) that its security officials had
arrested 10 people on Thursday on suspicion of belonging to a group supporting Islamic State (IS) and preparing acts of terrorism during next month's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, [the same] Justice Minister Alexandre Moraes said. The loosely organized group were all Brazilian citizens and in contact via internet messaging groups such as WhatsApp and Telegram, but did not know each other personally, the minister said. The group did not have direct contact with IS though some of its members had made "pro forma" declarations of allegiance to the militant Islamist group, the minister said. He did not elaborate. "Those involved participated in an online group denominated 'the defenders of Sharia' and were planning to acquire weapons to commit crimes in Brazil and even overseas," Moraes told a news conference... The minister said the leader of the group was based in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, with others spread in nine Brazilian states. [Reuters, July 21, 2016]
Other reports say the Brazilian jihadists call themselves "Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil" and propagate ISIS materials in the Arabic, English and Portuguese languages. And according to a report today on the Foreign Desk News website, Israelis are among the jihadists' targets:
In a list published on social media, jihadis are advised to target American, British, French and Israeli athletes with the notion that “One small knife attack against Americans/Israelis in these places will have bigger media effect than any other attacks anywhere else in sha Allah.” “Your chance to take part in the global Jihad is here! Your chance to be a martyr is here!” the jihadis said, citing the easy process of obtaining visas for travel to Brazil as well as the wide availability of guns in “crime-ridden slums.” Israeli athletes are further singled out. “From amongst the worst enemies, the most famous enemies for general Muslims is to attack Israelis. As general Muslims all agree to it and it causes more popularity for the Mujahideen amongst the Muslims,” they state. [Foreign Desk News, today]
Just two days before Thursday's arrests, a noted counter-terrorism authority in the US, SITE Intelligence Group, issued a report referring to calls by the Brazilian jihadists for "lone wolf" attackers to launch assaults on specific Olympic sites and via specific weapons.

In other parts of the terrorism-focused social media, an article from two years ago asserts that Brazil had become “an operational hub for Iran and Islamic terrorism” already then, offering safe haven for Islamic extremist groups.

A Wall Street Journal report today says
the arrests are certain to elevate concerns about the possibility of a terrorist attack in Rio, which is expected to attract 500,000 tourists and athletes, and raise additional questions over Brazil’s security preparations.
Telegraph UK says the Brazilians have formed an Integrated Anti-Terrorism Centre (called CIANT) for the Games. It works with the security agencies of the US, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Paraguay and Argentina. Officers at CIANT, headquartered in the capital, Brasília, "are monitoring Rio 24 hours a day. Among the areas covered are hotels where Olympic officials and VIPs will stay, Games venues and training sites". Four days ago, the general coordinator for public security at the Games, said
there was no identified threat of a terror attack against Brazil but said the level of alert had been raised since the Bastille Day attack in Nice. “Today, in the absence of a concrete threat to Brazil, we are on yellow alert, which is characterised by increased attention and the level of response in relation to everyday life,” he said. “This can develop into an orange or red alert according to any specific threat that is identified in relation to Brazil.” [Source]
It appears now that the light changed this morning.

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