Friday 9 December 2016

Brazil arrests 10 people over 'Isil plot' for terror attacks on Rio Olympics

Donna Bowater

Published 22/07/2016 | 02:30

Brazilian marines take part in a simulated hostage situation in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Pic: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian marines take part in a simulated hostage situation in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Pic: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazilian police have arrested 10 people on suspicion of preparing to carry out terror attacks for Isil during the Rio 2016 Olympics.

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Federal police carried out raids yesterday morning to detain the group, which was said to be sympathetic to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, just a fortnight before the Games begin, in what was called Operation Hashtag.

Two suspected members of the group remain at large.

Alexandre de Moraes, the country's justice minister, said the suspects, who were all Brazilian nationals, had been under surveillance and were arrested as soon as they appeared to carry out "preparatory acts" for an attack. At least one youth is understood to have been involved.

Mr Moraes said the group had shown support for Isil, discussed buying guns from Paraguay and celebrated recent terrorist attacks in Orlando and Nice.

"The attempt to buy firearms was one of these preparatory acts," Mr Moraes said. "The efficiency of police avoided any execution of these acts.

"It was an amateur, disorganised cell but no security agency can ignore facts of this nature."

An investigation began in April when Brazil's anti-terror police division began watching social networks to monitor a group called "Defenders of Sharia". Three members were reportedly identified after a police officer overheard them talking about bombs and explosions in Arabic in a bar in Sao Paulo, where the bar owner helped translate.

Jihadi

However, Mr Moraes said there had been no direct contact with the jihadi group and those involved had not left the country but there had been sympathetic messages shared on applications like WhatsApp and Telegram. He added that there had been no specific target identified.

The suspects will be held for 30 days with the possibility of a 30-day extension. The 10 were believed to be among the 50 targets identified by Brazilian intelligence agencies.

It is the first time police have carried out arrests under new anti-terror laws.

The operation comes amid heightened security fears around the Games.

Brazil's interim president Michel Temer called a meeting with Mr Moraes and security chiefs after he was informed of the arrests. According to newspaper 'Folha de Sao Paulo', there are 100 people currently being monitored by the federal police but none are believed to pose an imminent threat.

Meanwhile, anti-bomb squads carried out a controlled explosion of a suspect device, later found to be fake, in Rio.

Security forces, which have been reinforced on the request of Rio's acting governor, have carried out anti-terrorism exercises around the city this week. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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