The SITE Intelligence group has confirmed that a jihadist cell calling itself “Ansar al-Khilafah Brasil” — “Soldiers of the Caliphate Brazil” — has pledged allegiance to Islamic State caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, stoking fears that ISIS jihadists are planning an attack on the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
SITE published an image found on a Portuguese-language channel dedicated to the Islamic State jihad on the encrypted messaging application Telegram, which establishes the group as an ISIS affiliate and warns they are ready to conduct attacks.
— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup) July 18, 2016
The pledge of allegiance is considered the first of its kind in Latin America, according to SITE director Rita Katz. It states that members of the Brazilian group are “prepared for the sacrifice of becoming martyrs” and warns that Brazilian police training alongside French officers will do little to protect the South American nation, as France has become one of the most frequent targets of Islamic State attacks in the West.
Reuters reports that a man identified by the nom de guerre “Ismail Abdul Jabbar al-Brazili” has been identified as the moderator of at least one Portuguese-language Islamic State Telegram channel and has been translating propaganda from the official ISIS media outlets stationed in Raqqa, Syria, for distribution in Brazil. Authorities have not given any indication they know his true identity. At least one Brazilian national has been arrested trying to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, halted on his voyage in Bulgaria.
Brazilian newspaper O Globo quotes the nation’s defense minister, Raul Jungmann, as stating that despite the growing reports indicating the Islamic State has an interest in committing a terrorist act during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, he does not believe there is cause for concern. “I can say that there is no real threat identified,” Jungmann told reporters last week; “Our safety plan was 100 percent approved by the International Olympic Committee.”
Jungmann made the remarks before the Ansar al-Khilafah Brasil group proclaimed its existence, though ample evidence had surfaced before Monday’s revelation that the Islamic State and similar jihadist groups were looking to expand their influence to Latin America, and Brazil in particular. The Argentine website Infobae quotes Brazilian news outlets as confirming that at least four individuals planning to attend the Summer Games have had their credentials revoked due to ties with terrorist organizations or individuals with jihadi activity in their past. ISIS had also recently expanded its Telegram presence to Portuguese and Spanish channels.
Last week, French officials revealed they had evidence of an Islamic State plot forming to attack their Olympic delegation in Brazil. The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) reacted similarly to Jungmann, stating that the report was a “surprise” and that French officials had not contacted their Brazilian counterparts to inform them of evidence of a terrorist plot. Abin had, however, confirmed to Brazilian media that evidence existed that the Islamic State was working to encourage Muslims and those vulnerable to jihadi brainwashing to commit attacks in the name of the terrorist group. That confirmation followed the publication of an Abin document in the magazine Veja, which read, “one of the greatest government concerns is following the radicalization of individuals ideologically aligned with the Islamic State.”
Authorities are also concerned that Jihad Ahmad Diyab, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who has gone missing after leaving Uruguay, may have traveled to Brazil before the Olympics. Despite requiring crutches to walk and being unable to speak Spanish or Portuguese, Diyab has yet to be found.
While there is little evidence of Sunni Muslim jihadist activity in Brazil, and Brazil’s Muslim population is extremely small, the Pentagon and Department of State have repeatedly highlighted the Tri-Border Area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay as a problem spot for jihadi fundraising. The region is dominated by Shiite jihadists tied to the terrorist group Hezbollah.