Brazil arrests 10 in terror plot

RIO DE JANEIRO • The Brazilian authorities arrested 10 members of an Islamist militant group that was organising terror attacks, officials announced, raising tension around the country just two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games.

The Federal Police said in a statement on Thursday that the suspects belonged to a group called the Defenders of Shariah. Agents from an anti-terrorism unit are investigating the group's activities in several states, including Rio de Janeiro, where the games will take place.

The arrests were announced at a time when the Brazilian authorities are coming under scrutiny over security preparations for the Olympics.

Responding to the truck massacre last week in France, Brazil's Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani told reporters on Wednesday that "the government is absolutely convinced that the Games will be safe".

Officials said the people arrested had communicated with one another via mobile messaging services. Justice Minister Alexander de Moraes said suspects had been taken into custody "when they went from basic commentaries about the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria) to preparatory acts". Still, Mr Moraes emphasised the group's embryonic nature, calling it "an amateur cell without any preparation".

Mr Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the federal judge overseeing the case, said on Thursday that the suspects ranged in age from 20 to 40, and that they communicated with each other using code names in Arabic even though none appeared to have Arab ancestry.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Brazil arrests 10 in terror plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe