Home inContext Islamic Extremists Operating from Brazil

Islamic Extremists Operating from Brazil

Samara Greenberg

Terrorist operatives are in Brazil planning attacks abroad, raising money, and recruiting and training followers from among the Latin American youth, according to a recent report in a leading Brazilian news magazine, Veja. Citing Brazilian police and U.S. government reports, the magazine stated that at least 20 high-ranking operatives affiliated with al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and two other organizations are known to be operating from within the South American country.

According to the article, Hezbollah and Hamas cells in particular have been operating for years in the “Triple Frontier” area on the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, an area that has a long held reputation as South America’s busiest contraband and smuggling hub. The report also cited large quantities of cash changing hands and deals with arms suppliers, and noted that the cells have provided forged passports from Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, and Spain to militants arriving from the Middle East.

Iranian-born Mohsen Rabbani, according to Veja, is involved in the terrorist networks in Brazil.

The terrorist organizations’ work in Latin America has not gone unnoticed, however. The U.S. Treasury has described the Triple Frontier as a “financial artery” for Hezbollah, and security experts recently expressed fears that terrorists are “taking advantage” of weaknesses in Brazil’s laws. The South American country has not passed any specific anti-terrorism legislation, does not recognize Hezbollah or Hamas as terrorist groups, and disbanded the Federal Police’s anti-terrorism service in 2009. “Without anybody noticing, a generation of of Islamic extremists is appearing,” said Alexandre Camanho de Assis, who co-ordinates Brazil’s network of public prosecutors.

America’s foreign policy challenges emanating from the Middle East over the last decade have captured much of Washington’s attention. The Brazilian news magazine’s report is another reason for the White House to spend more time focusing on its southern neighbors.