Brazil’s Justice Ministry said Thursday that it arrested 10 individuals, all Brazilian nationals, suspected of attempting to plot attacks in the name of ISIS.
The group is accused of “promoting the Islamic State” and the “implementation of preparatory actions for carrying out terrorist attacks.”
Police carried out searches across 10 states; four of the arrests were made in São Paulo, while single arrests were made in six other states. Two warrants were issued for outstanding suspects.
“However insignificant it may seem, we will have a quick reaction,” Minister of Justice and Citizenship Alexandre de Moraes vowed at a press conference.
Moraes said investigators began delving into an online forum that was being used by “supporters of Sharia” to discuss attacks in Brazil and abroad. No specific attack site was mentioned just a couple weeks from the start of the Olympic Games in Rio, which run Aug. 5 through Aug. 21.
The Justice Ministry added that an NGO “operating in the humanitarian and educational field” is also being investigated for potential involvement in the case.
Under Brazilian law, promoting ISIS carries a sentence of five to eight years in prison. Planning terrorist attacks brings between three and 15 years behind bars.
Moraes called the group “absolutely amateur — with no preparation” beyond discussing terror training, such as taking martial arts classes, and attempting to buy a gun online.
PJM reported earlier this week that ISIS supporters on a Portuguese-language message board had been discussing attacks in the region. Anti-ISIS hackers Binary Sec had reported this forum to the authorities, and the arrests are believed to be connected to these messages and the users behind them.
Portuguese and Brazilian media revealed last month that Ismail Abdul Jabbar al-Brazili, also simply known as “The Brazilian,” was attempting to recruit his countrymen for the Islamic State. He was said to be employing several different social media accounts to reel in would-be jihadists, and has said he was recruited by late American jihadist Abu Khalid al-Amriki.
In an online forum uncovered by Binary Sec, a July 11 post to fellow “brothers” notes that someone was “wanting to find al-Brazili within 3 weeks… wants to find the recruiter” — a timetable that coincides with the Olympics’ opening week. The poster mused whether this person was a spy and posted his Telegram information.
Binary Sec hackers also flagged a June 18 post with a photo of an AK-47 resting against a carpeted backdrop. “We are expecting a larger audience, will be soon, the blood of sinners will fall and we will show the real power of God,” read the accompanying text.
And the poster, going by the name “Wolf,” also showed an unidentifiable objecting burning on a concrete surface, talking about “improvisation” with explosive material. “There are many dealers selling fireworks, if you have knowledge, prepare some explosions for the big day.”
Binary Sec identified the user as originally being from the U.S. and now acting as a weapons man for ISIS in Brazil. There is no indication that he has been captured by authorities.
In a June 17 post, he says “we will be in the region of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, we need to gather more, all have their opportunity to serve our Lord, even if you want to be a wolf.”
“Brothers, today our meeting in São Paulo was good, we have more ideas, no doubt, use the rush hour on the yellow line will be a good opportunity to hold the trial against these pigs. I should point out that we can not use our usual clothes, I noticed that many of you are not yet accustomed to this, but we must be discreet.”
Some of the posts were simply from eager volunteers — the online jihad seekers reportedly easily tracked down by authorities.
“I am muslim one year. I want to help in a possible attack on Brazil,” read one post.
“Hi I had contact with a brother was fighting he taught me a few things but I really want to join my brothers,” wrote one next to a cartoon image of a pressure cooker.
Users seem to have deserted the forum this month after expressing wariness about security.
A new Telegram channel, Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil, appeared this week, declaring itself an ISIS cell in Brazil that had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “If French police couldn’t stop France attacks, then their training Brazil’s police will serve no use,” said a message on the new channel. But the administrator later posted that it was just a messaging channel with one person reposting ISIS news in several languages.
ISIS has been offering its regular propaganda in Portuguese along with English, French, German, Russian and other languages in target areas.