Iran is investing in strengthening the political and economical relations with several countries in Latin America. It is also actively engaged in religious proselytizing, particularly aimed for the poorest sectors of the Latin American society. Converts to Islam eventually undergo religious and political training, including in Iran, to prepare these new adherents to become instruments and agents of the Iranian regime.

Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian mullah and a former cultural attaché in Argentina, is a leading figure in spreading Islam in Latin America, particularly in Brazil. Rabbani, while in the service at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires, was involved in the planning and implementation of the deadly terrorist attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish cultural center of 1994 that resulted in 85 dead and more than 150 injured. Rabbani's involvement in the bombing was persistently denied by Iranian authorities. In 2007, however, Interpol finally decided to issue a Red Notice for Rabbani, which is an arrest warrant with a view to extradite.

Despite the arrest warrant, Rabbani, who is presently the director of Oriental Thought Cultural Institute in the Iranian city of Qom, continues, unabated, to proselytize in Latin America. According to Brazilian sources, he has traveled several times to Brazil under a false identity in order to recruit new converts to Islam. According to Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, charged to investigate the AMIA attacks in Buenos Aires, "Rabbani is a serious security threat, including in Brazil. In Argentina, he spread his vision of radical, extremist, and violent Islam, which resulted in dozens of casualties during the Buenos Aires terrorist attacks. Now, based in Iran, he continues to play a significant role in the spread of extremism in Latin America."

The activity Rabbani is developing in Belo Jardim, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, where local police have found evidence that the recruitment of Brazilians, and subsequent traveling to Iran, involves more than spiritual enlightenment through religion, is particularly alarming. Along with the recruits in Belo Jardim, youth from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico are also traveling to Iran.

The Brazilian Federal Police has information that Rabbani, in one of his latest visits to Brazil, used methods that could cause a "diplomatic crisis." The Iranian mullah embarked a plane in Tehran bound for Caracas, Venezuela. From there, he entered Brazil illegally. Operated by Iran's state airline, the Tehran-Caracas flight was called "Aeroterror" by intelligence officials, for allegedly facilitating the access of terrorist suspects to South America. The Venezuelan government hid the passenger lists from Interpol on that flight. Rabbani's movements were being monitored, the idea being to detain him in Brazil. Notified, the Federal Police set up an operation, but the order to execute the operation took longer than anticipated, due to complicated discussion about the political implications. Once again, Rabbani managed to escaped.

In the 675 pages complied by the Argentinean Investigation Unit of the Office of the Attorney General on the AMIA terrorist attack, it is reported that one of the ways used by Rabbani to secure an individual's loyalty is to send them to Iran so as to deepen their knowledge of Islam.

One of Rabbani's favorite disciples in Latin America is Sheik Karim Abdul Paz, an Argentinian convert to Shiite Islam, who formerly went by the name, Santiago Paz Bullrich. He used to be the imam of the Iranian-run al-Tahuid Mosque in Buenos Aires. Now he is imam of the Islamic Cultural Center in Santiago de Chile. He studied in Qom, and became a leading figure of Shiite Islam in Latin America. He doesn't hide his sympathies for Middle Eastern terrorist groups and maintains that the Shiite group, Hezbollah, is not a terrorist movement, but a "fundamental part of the heroic worldwide resistance against the U.S. and Israel's terrorist imperialism". This, apparently, is what Rabbani is teaching to Latin American converts during his spiritual courses in Iran.

April 20, 2011

Rabbani brings Brazilian converts to Iran

The man pictured– white beard, wearing brown, and his head wrapped in a turban — is the Iranian Mohsen Rabbani. Among the seventeen people who surround him are eight Brazilians. Rabbani is considered by these people to be a teacher. The classroom is located in the Iranian city of Qom, a place sacred to Shiite Muslims. New converts to Islam, the young Brazilians traveled to Iran, all expenses paid, to deepen their religious knowledge. Recruiting or proselytizing is common to all faiths. In this case, however, distortions are disturbing. Rabbani is not a teacher, either.

The Brazilian weekly, Veja, revealed two weeks ago that, in addition to being one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, he is also responsible for recruiting young Brazilians for courses on "religious training." What this terrorist, named as a perpetrator of one of the bloodiest attacks in history, and responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people, may be teaching the Brazilians is a major concern of the authorities. The clues uncovered so far to unravel this mystery are not encouraging.

"Professor" Rabbani is wanted for his involvement in acts of terrorism since November 9, 2006. His capture is considered so vital that Interpol has included his name in a so-called "red notice," a select list of most wanted people in the world. The international arrest warrant against Rabbani was issued by Argentinean courts. He is considered one of the masterminds behind two attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, which killed 114 people in 1992 and 1994. Rabbani was an Iranian embassy official in Argentina's capital. With diplomatic status, he is now protected by the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and responsible for the recruitment of followers throughout Latin America, promising religious influence and also money. Rabbani's effort to amass followers in the poor regions of Brazil, with no tradition linked to Islam, is noteworthy.

"Rabbani is a serious security threat, including in Brazil. In Argentina, he spread his vision of radical, extremist, and violent Islam, which resulted in dozens of casualties during the Buenos Aires terrorist attacks. Now, based in Iran, he continues to play a significant role in the spread of extremism in Latin America," prosecutor Alberto Nisman, head of the special unit of the Argentine prosecutors charged with investigating the attacks, told Veja.

Rabbani's courses are an entryway for terrorism

The enticement of Brazilians for courses abroad has been monitored for four years by the Federal Police and the ABIN, the government's secret service. It is Rabbani himself, with help from people he trusts, who chooses those who will travel. From 2007 until today, three groups of Brazilians have visited Iran. There are plenty of reasons for such surveillance. The course has a strong religious content. But that is not what is of concern. Students from one of Rabbani's groups have confided that, during these travels, they have visited the premises of the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by many countries, including the United States. Reports to which Veja had access say that Rabbani's courses are some sort of an entryway for terrorism. According to these documents, the classes include radical preaching and training in military camps.

The city of Belo Jardim, a Brazilian municipality in the state of Pernambuco, is the most active center for the recruitment of extremists. Of the eight selected Brazilians for the first class taken to Iran in late 2007, four were from Belo Jardim. A brother of Mohsen Rabbani, who lived in Curitiba, personally took care of recruitment. Today, this Pernambuco city of 58,000 inhabitants deserves constant attention from the Federal Police and ABIN. Among the Brazilians lured are: a taxi motorcyclist, a schoolteacher, an official of the Banco do Brasil, and an English teacher — all from humble backgrounds. The motorcyclist,Erlan Batista Machado, had never been on a plane until he flew to Sao Paulo, and from there to Iran, where he studied at the invitation of Rabbani. In Iran, he gained a new name: Sayd. Approached by Veja, Erlan said he accepted the invitation because he wanted to know more about Islam. "It was a wonderful experience," he said. He said he never had contact with terrorists or with radical groups.

The reaction of Professor Joao Adriano Oliveira was the same when asked about the matter: "It was just a religion course." Joao Adriano, who teaches in a public school and is learning the Arabic language, was a natural leader of the group formed in Belo Jardim. Renamed Abu Husayn, it was his responsibility to make contacts with the brother of Rabbani and with Iran. Travel expenses were paid by a foundation coordinated by Rabbani and sponsored by the Ahmadinejad government. Joao and his classmates also received small amounts of money during their period of stay in Iran. They came back with a promise from Rabbani to donate $350,000 to build a mosque in the city.

Messages exchanged between the group, and intercepted by Brazilian police, reveal that the goal of recruiting Brazilians and traveling to Iran involves more than spiritual enlightenment through religion. The messages contained evidence that the group and its leaders in Iran have something to hide. The report also had access to e-mails exchanged by Joao Adriano (Abu Husayn) and Rodrigo Jalloul, a Sao Paulo resident who went to Iran for almost four years and remained there. Today, according to the investigation, he is the right arm of Rabbani for matters that relate to clandestine activities in Brazil. In a message dated April 5, 2010, Joao warned Adriano Jalloul, who planned to come to Brazil for a visit, of the existence of investigations into the group: "The Federal Police got involved in an investigation into Hezbollah money laundering. We can talk more about this some time, but I believe that, as of today, we have been monitored for more than one (sic). If you come, do it in a secretive manner, at the last minute, and only let us know when you are in the region."

Fiery speeches against Israel and Jews

The papers of the Brazilians seized by police included an annex to the document illustrated in this report. They make reference to Hezbollah and reproduce fiery speeches against Israel and Jews. The students of extremism in Iran have brought along pictures of facilities maintained by the Lebanese group on Iranian soil – the itinerary included excursions to various regions of the country and visits to religious and political leaders. "It has nothing to do with terrorism. What we learned here is religion. Mr. Rabbani tells us that these accusations against him are all untrue," Rodrigo Jalloul told Veja. But that's not what those responsible for surveillance of terrorist movements in Brazil think. The police "Our biggest fear is that militants are being recruited for future terrorist attacks here, and for that reason we must redouble our attention towards these trips, especially because we will soon have in Brazil global events like the Olympics and World Cup, which can encourage these people to commit extreme acts."

Along with the recruits in Belo Jardim, youth from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico traveled to Iran. The group's ties to South America go beyond recruitment. The Federal Police has information that Rabbani came to Brazil a few times in recent years. In one of those visits, almost three years ago, he used methods that would be cause enough for a diplomatic crisis. The extremist embarked in Tehran bound for Caracas, Venezuela. From there, he entered Brazil illegally. Operated by Iran's state airline, the Tehran-Caracas flight was called "Aeroterror" by intelligence officials for allegedly facilitating the access of terrorist suspects to South America. The Venezuelan government shields passenger lists from Interpol on that flight. Professor Rabbani's movements were being monitored. The idea was to detain him in Brazil. Notified, the Federal Police set up an operation, but the order to execute this operation took a while, due to a complicated discussion about the political implications. Once again, the extremist escaped. Veja (Brazil), translation by InterAmerican Security Watch

April 4, 2011

Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas in Brazil

The Brazilian weekly, Veja, said several reports by the Brazilian Federal Police and the U.S. government warned that at least 20 high-ranking members from the three organizations -- al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas -- are currently operating in the so-called "Triple Frontier" area, shared by Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The Brazilian government has always denied the existence of any activities linked to these Islamic groups, but has admitted that a large portion of the Lebanese community living in the country legally sends large sums of money to the Middle East.

Rabbani visits his brother in Brazil

Also under investigation, according to the article published on Sunday, is Mohsen Rabbani, a former cultural attaché to the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires, who is suspected of being involved in the 1992 and 1994 terrorist attacks against the Jewish community in Argentina. Apparently, Rabbani "frequently flies to Brazil under a fake identity in order to visit a brother living in Curitiba."

According to Interpol authorities and intelligence agents in Brazil, his last visit to Brazil was in last September 2010. Veja reports that the ABIN (Brazil's intelligence agency) found out that Rabbani took over 20 young men from the Greater Sao Paulo area, Pernambuco and Parana to a meeting in Tehran in which they would be instructed on religious formation. Merco Press (South Atlantic News Agency)

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