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Jihadists threats to Latin America and Hezbollah and Iran in Peru

More specifically about Latin America I argued that the good news is that historically Sunni jihadists and ISIS have little or minimum presence on the continent.

It seems Trinidad and Tobago is among the countries that have contributed the most fighters to IS per capita. More than 100 Trinidadians are believed to have gone to Syria. Nine Trinidadians were caught by Turkish authorities en route to join IS in Syria and are awaiting deportation. The government is looking at possible measures introduced by other countries aimed at curbing these numbers, including detention, forfeiture of travel documents and citizenship removal.

In 1990, about 100 armed militants affiliated with Jamaat al Muslimeen (Jamaat), a local organization rooted in the black Muslim community, stormed the country’s parliament, holding the prime minister and other members of the government hostage for six days. It’s an event that has been described as the only Islamist insurrection in the western hemisphere.
It should be noted that in November 2015 Brazil was threatened by ISIS in a Twitter profile owned by Maxime Hauchard: “Brazil you are our next target. We can attack this country of shit.” The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) confirmed that the profile belongs to the French terrorist who appears in videos of the beheadings in Syria. The message was posted a week after the coordinated attacks in France.

Indeed, in June 2016 Brazilian police arrested a dozen Islamic State sympathizers accused of having made up an “amateurish” and disorganized potential terror cell whose only contact with each other was via Internet messaging. In conversations online the 12 men praised terrorist attacks in Europe and talked about buying guns with an eye toward striking during the Olympics. Several suspects swore allegiance to Islamic State, but there is no evidence of any actual contact with IS, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said. In July police was investigating a second group of possible would-be terrorists. I didn’t see any update of what happens with the two dozen would-be terrorists.

The bad news is that Sunni jihadists could evaluate that local law enforcement and security forces are not sufficiently prepared to deal with the threat and decide to find refuge here after the demise of the Caliphate, even if in small numbers. Many of these could be those which have financial resources or past criminal experience, the new warlords that grew during the civil wars.

Other bad news is that large numbers of Iran/Hezbollah/Shiite fighters in Syria and Iraq, based on their experience in the 1990s, in Argentina and elsewhere on the continent, could decide to seek refuge in Latin America.

An interesting and present example is to be found in Peru.

The Mohammed Amadar affair. Mohammed Amadar, also known as Mohammed Galeb Hamdar, was arrested in October 2014 in Lima, Peru based on Israeli intelligence.

Amadar raised red flags when he traveled to Peru from Brazil and married a woman, Carmen Carrion Vela, who holds dual citizenship of Peru and the United States. Police found hundreds of pictures of high value targets and critical infrastructure in Peru, Israeli and Jewish targets, including the Israeli Embassy in Lima, Chabad houses and Jewish community centers. Traces of TNT, detonators, and other bomb making paraphernalia were found in the basement of his house.

Amadar was probably a planner and not an operative who would personally carry out attacks. He admitted his affiliation with Hezbollah and Carrion Vela staged the marriage with Amadar, receiving money from Hezbollah in exchange.

Amdar is standing for trial and if convicted it would be the first time a member of an Islamic terrorist organization has been convicted in Latin America for plotting a terrorist attack.  It would also constitute a de facto designation of Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in Peru, a legal precedent that may spur additional designations throughout the region.

To understand better the threat of Iran/Hezbollah to Latin America and their modus operandi the reading of Melissa Scholem Heller’s article “Peru, Abancay & Hezbollah: the Party of God in the City Where the Gods Speak” gives a good glimpse at it. Melissa is an intern at ICT >>

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).