Olimpiada Rio 2016

After Arrest of Group, Minister Says Chance of Attacks at Games Is Minimal

Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes referred to the Brazilians arrested under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack during the Olympics as a group of amateurs and repeated that he considers common criminality to be a bigger concern than the possibility of any terrorist attack during Rio-16.

"Apparently it was a completely amateur cell, totally unprepared. If they had been prepared they wouldn't have been trying to buy weapons on the internet. I continue to emphasize that general security is of a greater concern than terrorism, but of course we can't ignore anything", he argued.

For Moraes, this episode doesn't alter the government's degree of concern related to possible actions by extremist factions.

"It doesn't increase the level of alert at all. This all has already all been mapped out. Both concrete situations that came up have been dealt with: the French Professor [actually, French- Algerian], who was deported on Friday [15], and this group that was arrested today [Thursday, 21]", he explained.

According to the Minister, the group, which refers to itself as "Defenders of Sharia", communicated through the internet and had a leader, who called upon the others to initiate a kind of preparation with training in martial arts and in marksmanship.

As Folha revealed in Thursday's edition, the Brazilian Government has been monitoring 100 people in the country that have been clearly and openly sympathetic to the Islamic State.

The ten arrested this morning were people on the list who were being more closely followed. Since the beginning of the investigation these were the ones who have been garnering more attention from security forces.

"The 10% were all arrested this morning by the Federal Police (PF)", affirmed Moraes, during an interview.

This was the first anti-terror operation carried out by the PF since a law was passed specifying crimes of this nature.

At first, according to the Minister, the conversations and sites visited by the suspects didn't suggest that the they were planning to carry out an actual attack in Brazil.

"They quickly went from simply commenting about the Islamic State to preparatory activities. Four to six of them took an oath of allegiance [virtually] to the Islamic State and one of them got into contact with a clandestine weapons site, trying to purchase an AK 47", he explained.

"Their exchange of messages shows the degradation of these people, celebrating the attack in Orlando, in Nice and another, also in France. They also sent [images of] executions carried out by the Islamic State. A few days back, they started taking up an increasingly menacing posture", the Minister added.

Two of those arrested on Thursday had prior police records and had already served time for homicide.

The PF operation, code-named "Hashtag", had been authorized by the Federal Justice Department in Paraná, that had issued a total of 32 warrants: 12 for temporary detention, 2 for proceeding with force and 19 for search and seizure. Two suspects still haven't been arrested, but according to Moraes, they are being followed.

Through an official written notification, the PF communicated that an NGO is also being investigated. At a press conference the Minister said that this institution is suspected as serving as an apologist for the Islamic State and terrorism and that one of its leaders was taken into custody to be questioned and to give testimony.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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