Brazil Dismantles Supposed Terrorist Cell With Olympic Plot

  • Group of 12 Brazilians possibly linked to Islamic State
  • Suspects discussed tactics to carry out attacks during games

Brazil’s federal police detained a group of Brazilian nationals who were allegedly plotting terrorist attacks for the Summer Olympics, which are set to kick off early next month in Rio de Janeiro.

The group was possibly participating as an Islamic State cell, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said Thursday, adding that 10 suspects are in custody and warrants are out for another two, who are being monitored. Wiretaps revealed messages that supported racial and religious intolerance, as well as the intent to use firearms and guerrilla tactics to achieve their objectives.

Concerns about safety at the Summer Olympics have increased following a wave of terrorist attacks around the globe, including last week’s killings in France. The incidents spurred Brazil’s security officials to re-examine their preparations and bolster safeguards by adding checkpoints and barriers.

The alleged cell contacted the Islamic State online, swore allegiance to the terrorist group and began planning acts and carrying out training, Minister De Moraes said. It also commemorated the recent killings in France and Orlando, Florida.

For a look at some of Rio’s security measures, click here.

“An order went out in the group to start martial training -- training on munitions and firearms -- so they could carry out some specific attack, which hasn’t yet been determined,” De Moraes said.

Security Forces

Military soldiers patrol inside Galeao International Airport on July 20.
Military soldiers patrol inside Galeao International Airport on July 20.
Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

Authorities have long been preparing security measures to protect athletes and tourists during the Summer Games. The Rio Olympics will be the first to have a counter-terrorism center, with representatives of seven countries working alongside Brazilian agents. The city also will have more than 85,000 security forces on hand, of which more than 40 percent correspond to the marines, air force and other branches of the national military.

The minister urged people to remain calm, saying Thursday’s development doesn’t raise the risk of attending the games. The alleged cell members appeared to be amateurs and never met in person, he said. They communicated primarily via mobile messaging systems including WhatsApp and Telegram, and their computers and mobile phones have been seized.

"The odds of a terrorist attack occurring in Brazil during the Olympics are minimal," he said.

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