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Olympics: U.S. Warned of Jihad in Latin America Shortly Before Brazilian Islamic State Pledge

A jihadist group in Brazil has declared its loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) weeks before hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to the South American country for the Summer Olympics, reports the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites.

The pledge by Ansar al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate of Brazil) marks the first time a Latin American group declares its support of ISIS, according to various news outlets.

SITE also noted that “a jihadi Telegram channel called for attacks at the Rio 2016 Olympics and provided a list of suggested target types, locations, and methods for such operations.”

The pledged of allegiance was also made via the Telegram messaging app, which hosts private channels and allows users to send encrypted messages.

According to SITE, ISIS Telegram channels have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.

Brazil’s national intelligence agency has already sounded the alarm regarding the risk of radical Islamic terrorism at the Olympic games, noting there has been a rise in the number of Brazilians sympathizing with jihadist groups such as ISIS.

The Islamic State has threatened to attack the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which are expected to begin on August 5.

Moreover, Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, the top U.S. military commander in Latin America and the Caribbean, recently cited concerns of Islamic radicalization in his area of responsibility.

He told reporters in March that up to 150 individuals from Latin America and the Caribbean have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

During a July 13 event hosted by the nonpartisan think tank Atlantic Council, Adm. Tidd indicated that ISIS likely maintains a presence in the region.

Asked about the potential of ISIS operating in Latin America, the commander responded, “Short answer? Yes. We see that radicalization is occurring.”

He added:

When I talk with my counterparts in various countries throughout the region, all of them recognize that the potential for radicalization — and especially this phenomena of self-radicalization, internet-inspired, or facilitated self-radicalization — is something that they are beginning to see crop up…

It’s a challenge that literally we can find throughout the region.

In describing the various criminal groups that maintain a presence in the region, Tidd highlighted ISIS recruiting networks and other operations linked to terrorism.

The admiral said:

You need to move some people with known terrorist ties from the Middle East, up through South and then Central America, and over the U.S.-Mexico border? We’ve got networks for that, too.

You want to spread an extremist message in the Caribbean and recruit fighters for ISIL? We have a worrisome number of networks for that. You need to legitimize millions dollars in illicit profits every year? Well, you’re in luck; we have many networks for that, including sub-networks that specialize in… helping funnel cash to international terrorist organizations.

Citing Brazil’s defense minister, the Washington Post (WaPo) reports that a government database in the South American country, compiled with the assistance of the U.S. and France, contains information on nearly 500,000 people suspected of some association with terrorism.

“Anyone wanting to watch the Olympic Games will have to go through a barrier where they identify themselves and their details are checked,” declared the minister. “This person will then pass through a second barrier where everything they are bringing with them will be scanned.”

WaPo points out:

Before the attack in Nice, France, last week, Rio de Janeiro had already planned to deploy 85,000 police, military and members of a Brazil-style national guard called the National Force. But Brazil increased its plans in response to the Nice assault…

Rio de Janeiro is afflicted by street crime and violence on a daily basis.

The Post notes:

The presence of Ansar al-Khilafah on messaging apps could increase the likelihood of a lone wolf becoming radicalized. Guns are easily obtainable in Brazil, both in crime-ridden slums and across the porous border with Paraguay, where an extensive small-arms trade takes place.

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