Brazil arrests group plotting 'acts of terrorism' before Olympics

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Brazilian Police Arrest Terrorist Group Over Olympic Attack Plot

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil arrested 10 people on Thursday on suspicion of belonging to a group supporting Islamic State (IS) and preparing acts of terrorism during next month's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Justice Minister Alexandre Moraes said.

The loosely organized group were all Brazilian citizens and in contact via internet messaging groups such as WhatsApp and Telegram, but did not know each other personally, the minister said.

SEE ALSO: Brazil not underestimating terror threat, says minister

The group did not have direct contact with IS though some of its members had made "pro forma" declarations of allegiance to the militant Islamist group, the minister said. He did not elaborate.

"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 told a news conference.

"It was an absolutely amateur cell, with no preparation at all, a disorganized cell," the minister said, adding that authorities decided to intervene when the group started to plan actions.

See how officials in Rio are upping security for the 2016 Olympic Games:

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Security amped up in Rio ahead of Olympics
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino 
A passenger waits as Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A passenger walks as Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A passenger waits as Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Passengers walk as Brazilian Air force soldiers patrol the Tom Jobim International airport ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Army soldiers patrol in front of the Olympic stadium ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Brazilian Navy ship attends an exercise near Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Navy soldiers attend an exercise on Flamengo beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Brazilian Army Forces soldiers patrol on Copacabana beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
A Brazilian Army Forces soldier patrols on Copacabana beach ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Brazilian Army Forces soldiers patrol outside the 2016 Rio Olympics Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Brazilian Army Forces soldiers patrol a street during a rehearsal of the 2016 Rio Olympics opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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He said members of the group had visited a weapons site in neighboring Paraguay that sells AK-47 assault rifles, but there was no evidence they acquired any weapons. Two people will be brought in for questioning, in addition to the 10 already detained, he added.

Interim President Michel Temer had called an emergency cabinet meeting following the arrests, the first under Brazil's tough new anti-terrorism law approved this year.

The minister said the leader of the group was based in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, with others spread in nine Brazilian states.

A court in the state of Parana, where Curitiba is based, said there were indications that the group was planning to use weapons and guerilla tactics to achieve its aim.

Brazil's intelligence agency said on Tuesday it was investigating all threats to the Rio Olympics, which start on Aug. 5, after a presumed Brazilian Islamist group pledged allegiance to IS.

The SITE Intelligence Group that monitors the internet reported the previously unknown group calling itself "Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil" said on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday that it followed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and had promoted IS propaganda in Arabic, English and Portuguese.

Brazilian authorities stepped up security measures following the truck massacre in Nice, France last week, planning security cordons, additional roadblocks and the frisking of visitors in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics.

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