RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian authorities have arrested 10 people suspected of supporting Islamic State and discussing committing acts of terrorism during next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

ustice Minister Alexandre Moraes said the members of the group were all Brazilian citizens and in contact via messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, which allowed authorities to intercept their communications. They did not know each other personally, Moraes added.

The arrests come amid growing fears over possible attacks on Olympic targets when the Games get underway on August 5. Federal police are monitoring about 100 people for possible links to terrorist groups, mostly in the tri-border region with Paraguay and Argentina, a presidential aide told Reuters.

Brazilian police and intelligence services have been cooperating with French, German, British, Israeli and US intelligence agencies regarding the arrests, the aide added.

Brazil has no history of conflict with known militant groups but Moraes conceded the Games have made the country a more likely target, particularly because of participation by countries fighting IS.

Moraes said: “This was the first operation against a supposed terrorist cell in Brazil. Brazil was not part of the coalition against IS, but because of the upcoming Olympics and because it will receive many foreigners, Brazil becomes part of the target.”

Individuals detained yesterday had been monitored because they had accessed websites linked to IS, but he stated the group had “no preparation at all” and was a “disorganised cell”. The group’s leader is said to have been based in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, with others located across nine Brazilian states.

“Those involved participated in an online group, denominated ‘the defenders of Sharia’ and were planning to acquire weapons to commit crimes in Brazil and even overseas,” Moraes added.

The latest development comes after the Brazilian government last week outlined plans to increase security measures for the Olympics in the wake of the terror attack in Nice.

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro are expecting more than 500,000 foreign visitors for the Olympics. Officials had already declared holidays and banned trucks in some parts of Rio for peak periods of the Olympics to ease congestion and improve emergency response capabilities.

Last week, an increase in the number of security perimeters, spot-checks of visitors and roadblocks were also announced. A deployment of around 85,000 police, soldiers and other security personnel, over twice the number used at London 2012, is set to be utilised, while Brazil has also been cooperating with foreign intelligence services and militaries to share information, tactics and strategy.


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