Brazilian authorities have announced the arrest of Lebanese Hezbollah member Fadi Hassan Nahba, wanted by Interpol for drug trafficking since 2013. Authorities admitted they did not know he was working with the jihadi terror group until he personally told them after his arrest this week.
Nahba, Brazilian outlet O Globo reports, was rounded up in Sao Paulo as part of a crackdown preceding the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, set to begin on Friday. Authorities had arrested him in 2003 for drug trafficking but ultimately released him; by 2013, he was wanted for deportation due to continued drug offenses.
After his arrest this week, Nahba confessed to being an active Hezbollah member, a fact Brazilian police appeared to have only been alerted to at that moment. “I talked to him directly, he told me that he spent two years serving the special Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. He had a vast knowledge of weapons and explosive materials,” Sergeant Geraldo Castro told Globo‘s television network.
“We have been looking for him since May because he was wanted for drug traffic, not terrorism,” police spokesman Augusto Roque admitted to Reuters. The news agency notes that a significant hurdle to investigating cases of potential Hezbollah membership is the fact that Brazil does not recognize the group as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah is a Shiite terrorist organization operating out of Lebanon and Iran, operating with funding from Iran. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned that the group has established itself in Latin America, trafficking in drugs to fund terrorist activities around the world. The group often uses a series of over 80 “cultural centers” established throughout the continent by the Iranian government to operate.
“Iranian cultural centers open possibilities for Iran to introduce members of its Revolutionary Guard-Qods Forces (IRGC-QF) to a pool of potential recruits within the centers population of Lebanese Shi’a Muslims and local converts to Shia Islam,” a defense official told Breitbart News in May 2015.
David Shedd, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Breitbart News, “the cultural centers may be used as platforms for truly nefarious purposes by the Iranian regime.”
In addition to the cultural centers, Iran and Hezbollah have long exploited the lack of police infrastructure in a region known as the “Tri-Border Area,” which connects Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. “The Tri-Border Areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay remained an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering — all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations,” a U.S. State Department report noted earlier this year.
The arrest shifts the focus of the fight against jihad in Brazil to Hezbollah from the Sunni terrorist organization the Islamic State. The groups are rivals, with Hezbollah vowing to eliminate ISIS and its “takfiri” members from Lebanon, and ISIS calling for the eradication of “rafidi” Shiites. Both profess to follow the “true” Islam.
Officials have arrested 13 individuals using encrypted communications to plan an attack on the Olympics in the name of ISIS in the past two weeks, including one minor and two men who have been convicted of murder. The group was planning to buy AK-47s online to use in a raid on an Olympic venue. Brazilian officials have also begun an investigation into a second online ring of ISIS supporters, only after being alerted to their existence in a nationally broadcast Globo TV report in which a journalist infiltrated the group for a year.
American authorities are cooperating with Brazil to ensure safety at the Olympics, though preliminary reports lament the state of the security apparatus in the nation as “pre-September 11” and ill-equipped to target and eliminate jihadi threats.