Brazil has arrested 10 alleged Islamic State supporters who were supposedly planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the Olympic Games in Rio, officials in the South American country announced on Thursday.
The suspects are all Brazilians who reportedly pledged support to the Islamic State on a website. Officials said the suspects had been exchanging messages on WhatsApp, where they encouraged each other to get weapons-training and celebrated the recent attacks in Orlando and Nice.
“We will not give these plotters any space to advance, not even a millimeter,” Brazil’s Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said on a statement published this morning on the ministry’s website. “Any threat, no matter how insignificant it seems, will be dealt with a rapid response.”
Brazilian officials said that since April they’ve been monitoring a group of about 100 Brazilians who are thought be supporters of the Islamic State. The group arrested on Thursday had apparently been looking into purchasing weapons in Paraguay and smuggling them into Brazil before the Olympic Games.
But officials also said that the fact that they were sharing messages on WhatsApp and talking about learning how to use guns, shows that they were an “amateur cell” that did not pose a major threat.
Concerns over security at the Olympics have increased over the past few weeks, but officials say they are more worried about street crime and gang activity than terrorist attacks.
Earlier this month, Rio de Janeiro State Police threatened to go on strike during the Olympics due to unpaid salaries and benefits packages. A group of police officers even unfurled “welcome to hell” banners at Rio’s international airport, and told tourists that they could not guarantee their safety during the Olympics.
The government however insists it will guarantee safety during the Games. It has brought in 6,000 soldiers to bolster Rio’s security at Olympic sites and is planning to set up a special anti-terrorism intelligence center staffed by officials from seven different countries during the event.
The federal government has also promised to give Rio an $850 million loan to pay its police officers and bolster security.