An Italian newspaper reported that a terrorist group linked to Iran may be planning an attack in Colombia, Brazil or Bolivia, but there is little to suggest this report, light on details, is anything more than propaganda.
Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported that the planned attack might be carried out by operatives of the Lebanese group Hezbollah or Iran’s Quds force, a paramilitary wing of its Revolutionary Guard. Journalist Guido Olimpo named Lebanese national Adam Reef, who he called an expert on Latin America, as the coordinator of the operation. Olimpo’s report, datelined Washington, says that “the security services are on alert” over the plans.
According to Olimpo, Reef is part of a network linked to a bomb attack in New Delhi and an attempted bombing in Bangkok earlier this year, both of which apparently targeted Israelis. Israel blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the plots.
A report by InfoBAE news website said “high level sources in the Middle East” had informed regional governments of a terror threat from Hezbollah operatives, placing them on alert.
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Neither Corriere Della Sera nor InfoBAE provided compelling evidence that Hezbollah or Iranian cells are planning terrorist attacks in South America. They have, however, contributed to the cacophony of voices warning about this topic. InfoBAE, in one of its reports, cites an October 2011 paper (see pdf) by Roger Noriega and Jose Cardenas for the American Enterprise Institute.
The paper warns of a Hezbollah incursion into the region, citing “open sources, subject-matter experts, and sensitive sources within various governments.” It says there are parallel Quds and Hezbollah terror networks comprising some 80 members operating in the region, particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile.
There is also the question of the motive for an Iran/Hezbollah attack in South America, particularly on Bolivia or Brazil. Bolivia was listed by the American Enterprise Institute’s paper as a potential ally for Hezbollah, not a target. Brazil, meanwhile, has never seen a major terror attack inside its borders. In diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, US officials noted Brazil’s hesitance to cooperate in the US-led war on terror. Colombia is a more obvious target, being a close ally of the United States.
An Iran-Hezbollah attack in Latin America would not be unprecedented; the two groups were accused of bombing a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, and may have been behind a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in that city.
Hezbollah does have some ties in the region, with significant Lebanese immigrant communities in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. The group is thought to have links to criminal organizations in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, though it likely does not actively direct their operations. Iran’s government, meanwhile, has close ties to Nicaragua and to Venezuela.