24 July 2016
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S. gave Brazil the tip which led to last week’s arrests of 11 suspected militants, according to a Brazilian prosecutor.
The militants had discussed a possible attack on the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
In comments to several Brazilian newspapers published Saturday, prosecutor Rafael Brum Miron, said the FBI had provided a brief report on the possible attack.
Miron is the federal prosecutor handling the case in the southern state of Parana.
He said the report identified at least six people it suspected as potential militants.
“The information came from the FBI,” he told the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. “They sent a succinct report: These people merit investigating.’’
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office confirmed the comments and said the FBI provided the tip in May.
She said it was after this that Brazilian investigators tracked the suspects’ communications and identified the other people arrested last week.
A spokeswoman for the FBI in Washington declined to comment.
Thursday’s arrests, just two weeks before the first ever Olympics in South America begin on Aug. 5, came after a recent wave of violent attacks in Europe and the U.S.
They are also coming amid heightened fears that the Games could be a target.
Initially, police arrested 10 suspects and said another two were being monitored, but on Friday, one of the other two turned himself into police.
The suspects, described by Brazil’s justice minister as poorly organised and “absolutely amateur,” were alleged sympathisers of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
Although some of the suspects had pledged allegiance to IS online, investigators said they have no formal ties or backing from the group itself.
Only two of the suspects actually knew one another, police said, but the group communicated extensively online and through messaging services.
In their messages, police said the suspects applauded recent attacks outside Brazil and expressed desire — but little know-how and no specific plans — to stage an attack during the Olympics.
Investigators said one of the suspects sought to buy an AK-47 rifle online from a vendor in neighbouring Paraguay.
In spite of inexperience or lack of organisation, investigators say it is important to identify such groups and derail even incipient plans.
Also, they said this at a time when IS and other militant groups are actively seeking to recruit sympathisers and would-be attackers.
“Are they amateurs?’’ the prosecutor asked in the Estado interview, before rhetorically answering his own question. “Yes, but I don’t know of any experienced suicide bombers.’’