Following the arrest of thirteen men who had expressed an interest in committing a terrorist attack in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS) at the upcoming Summer Olympics, Brazilian authorities confirmed they are investigating a second ring of radical Muslims exposed after a Brazilian journalist went undercover as a fellow ISIS fan.
Fox News Latino cites Brazilian police as confirming on Monday that there is a parallel probe underway into individuals who exchanged pro-Islamic State messages with a journalist from O Globo, whom the television network did not name for security reasons. The report does not indicate the extent of the police investigation, or whether they have identified the individuals who communicated with the Globo reporter.
The exclusive report, which took a year-and-a-half to put together, required the journalist to memorize the Quran – so as to pass ISIS’s Islamic purity tests – and visit Islamic State recruiters in Europe. These recruiters put him in touch with other individuals in Brazil who had sought them out to find like-minded would-be jihadis and plan a terrorist attack. ISIS fans in Brazil relied on the terrorist group’s news agency, Al Amaq, for information on successful jihadist attacks and inspiration for new projects. The journalist notes that the online group to which he belonged became significantly more active in the past two weeks, as members sought to plan an attack on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The emails exposed in the Globo report shows members discussing meetings in metropolitan centers such as Sao Paulo and describing the Olympics as a “good opportunity” for a jihadist attack. The unidentified journalist told the network he believes this cell is “only waiting for recruiters’ orders” to attack an Olympic venue.
An estimated 15 people were members of this group.
In the past two weeks, police have arrested a number of Islamic State affiliates and discovered the presence of online venues for jihadi discussion. Among the materials surfacing online was a video showing the map of Brazil featuring a nasheed, or jihadi fight song, in which a URL flashed leading to a website with a countdown to the Olympics. A red and green hammer and sickle with the word “Islamunnism” also appeared in the video.
Police apprehended a 17-year-old boy, who admitted to making the video. He claimed the video was “sarcastic” and intended to make people “laugh,” but had “no relation to anything about Muslim beliefs.”
The men arrested around the country during the weekend have, however, admitted to plotting an attack. The group, which also featured one identified minor, included two men convicted of murder, a prolific Sharia blogger, and a man previously employed in the field of security. The group identified itself online as “Guardians of Sharia.” Authorities described them as “very amateur,” though very eager to realistically conduct an attack. Among their discussions was the possibility of buying an AK-47 firearm online.
Prior to these arrests, police announced the discovery of a Portuguese-language Islamic State channel on the encrypted communications mobile phone application Telegram, as well as a pledge of allegiance to ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a group calling itself Ansar al Khalifah Brasil, the first declaration of its kind.
“We have to pray to God that nothing happens,” Brazilian Foreign Relations Minister José Serra said of the jihadi threat this week, adding that he believes the nation is “prepared” for a terrorist attack.
Rio de Janeiro’s financial state is currently so dire that it has asked Brasilia for $900 million to pay for basic public services, arguing that the state will not have the money to both properly run the Olympics and pay for police. Rio police have been protesting for weeks that they have not been paid, holding up signs to tourists at international airports reading, “Welcome to Hell” and being forced to request that locals donate toilet paper to their local stations. Police helicopters and patrol cars have also been grounded, as the state does not have money for fuel.