Brazilian police on Thursday arrested around 12 suspects who were allegedly preparing to attack during the Olympic games.
The suspects had allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. However, there is not confirmation on the same as yet.
The arrests have been made in Brazil’s southern city of Parana.
The development comes two weeks before the Olympics gets underway in Rio de Janeiro.
Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said in the capital, Brasilia, that 10 suspects had been detained and two more were being sought. All are Brazilian, and one is a minor. The gender of the people was not given.
Police acted because the group discussed using weapons and guerrilla tactics to potentially launch an attack during
the Olympics, which begin August 5, Moraes said. However “they were complete amateurs and ill-prepared” to
actually launch at attack, Moraes said. “A few days ago they said they should start practicing martial arts, for example.”
Still, Moraes said even disorganised groups should be taken seriously. The arrests were made in 10 different states, including Sao Paulo and Parana in the southern part of the country, and it was not clear whether the suspects knew each other beyond their online contacts. Moraes said there were no specific targets for an attack.
Moraes said they had all been “baptised” as Islamic State sympathisers online and that none had actually travelled to
Syria or Iraq, the group’s stronghold, or received any training. Several were allegedly trying to secure financing from the group, known by the acronym ISIS.
The justice minister added that one of the suspects communicated with a Brazilian store in an alleged attempt to
by an AK-47 assault rifle, apparently the most concrete action taken toward a possible attack.
Last week the top military aide for Brazil’s interim government said concerns over terrorism had “reached a higher level” after the attack in Nice, France. Security has emerged as the top concern during the Olympics, including violence possibly spilling over from Rio’s hundreds of slums. Authorities have said they will be prepared and that some 85,000 police and soldiers will be patrolling during the competitions.
The arrests come weeks after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deadly November 13 attack in Nice, France that claimed more than 90 lives.
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot dead after zigzagging a 19-tonne truck through a crowd of tourists, locals and families enjoying a fireworks display in the Riviera city of Nice on Bastille Day.
Mangled bodies were left strewn across the Riviera city’s seafront in the grisly attack by a man described by those who knew him as a loner with a history of violence and depression.
The attack comes eight months after IS jihadists killed 130 people across Paris, and 18 months after three days of terror at the Charlie Hebdo weekly and a Jewish supermarket killed 17.
Former president and main opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday that “everything that should have been done the past 18 months was not done”.
“We are at war, outright war. So I will use strong words: it will be us or them,” he said.
While previous attacks saw grand displays of national unity, any semblance of cohesion quickly unravelled after the Nice massacre and Sarkozy joins a long line of opposition politicians who have criticised the government.
(With inputs from agencies)