Currently, only a handful of Latin American governments are thinking about the possibility of a terrorist attack by the Islamic state organization in the region. However, after the announcement by Dmitry Feoktistov, the Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats of the Russian Foreign Ministry, at the beginning of May at the 18th Session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) about the intensification of attempts by ISIS to create their own camps in Latin America, it is time to seriously consider this danger. How will the Latin American states fight against a possible enemy? Are the countries of Latin America ready to give worthy response to the terrorist threat? These and other issues have become ones of the most discussed in the region this month.
It is worth remembering that in the 90s of the XXth century in Argentina, immigrants from the Middle East committed two terrorist acts: the bombing of the Israeli Embassy (1992) and the building of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires (1994). Then dozens of people died, hundreds of victims were injured.
In his numerous interviews, the General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro repeatedly stressed that for the countries of the Latin American region there are compelling reasons to better prepare for the possibility of terrorist attacks. By words of Almagro, according to the information of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), the organization of ISIL through the virtual space has recruited many young Latin American people into their ranks, and some of them are fighting on the side of the terrorist organization in Syria. In addition, there is official information that for today there are people from Latin America and the Caribbean who returned home from the war zone in Syria, there is no exact data on their numbers, but they are large enough to organize terrorist attacks.
According to the well-known analytical company “The Soufan Group (SG)”, from 2011 to the present, at least 27,000 foreign citizens from 86 countries of the world have already gone to Syria and Iraq to fight on the side of the ISIL. About 76 of them were from South America.
In 2011, the US FBI accused two Iranians of conspiring to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. According to FBI staff, they also planned to organize a terrorist attack in Argentina.
This year, at the 18th session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, international experts reiterated the common view that the Islamic state, having suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, where it tried to recreate the Islamic caliphate, is currently actively expanding its terrorist activity abroad, to prove to the whole world its vitality and the scale of its influence.
It is quite probable that along with the continuation of its terrorist activities in European countries and the United States, steps will be taken to organize terrorist acts against the embassies of the United States, Russia, the European Union and Israel in Latin America. Thus, the ISIL will try to attract international attention and demonstrate to the world community that the organization is still alive and has global coverage.
In addition, according to official statistics, other Islamic terrorist groups, such as “Hezbollah”, are active in Latin America, which has a wide-spread network of strongholds in Venezuela and has wide support from Iran.
The former head of the US Southern Command (2012-2016) and the current head of the White House apparatus, retired general John Kelly, speaking in the Senate in 2016, said that then the leadership of several Latin American countries expressed concern over the expansion of the network of supporters of Islamic extremists in the Western hemisphere, who left for Syria to take part in “jihad” (holy war). At that time, before going to Syria, many of them received military training and weapons in Latin America. Then Kelly assured that, upon their return, they would already be well-trained fighters with experience of military operations and well-established ties with Islamic terrorist organizations that pose a great danger for the whole world. In his speech two years ago, Kelly noted that by 2016 Iran had opened about 80 “cultural centers” in Latin America, where the violent version of Islam was actively preached, which cannot but cause concern among the officials of Latin American countries.
On the 4th of May at the 18th Session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, Dmitry Feoktistov, the Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pointed out the existence of camps for the training of jihadists and recreational bases in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, with local criminal and drug cartels. To date, are particularly concerned about the activation of the recruiting activities of extremists in the Caribbean states, where the share of citizens professing Islam is high.
However, already later in his communication with journalists Feoktistov admitted that the cases of recruitment are still of a single character. In turn, he noted that in this issue it is better to work on the lead. In this regard, Feoktistov put forward a number of proposals to the meeting participants. He called to join the International Data Bank of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation for Countering Terrorism, where according to the latest information, there are data on the 89 terrorist organizations and more than the 11 thousand questionnaires of foreign militants.
At present, the most alarming are those young Latin Americans who are still leaving for combat operations in Syria in order to join to the ISIL because they are unhappy with their life and cannot be realized at home. In addition, it should be noted that the secret services of Latin America still do not focus on fighting global terrorism. In many Latin American countries of the “left” camp, state security services are only spying on political opponents and oppositionists.
It is worth noting that after terrorist attacks in several countries of the EU and Russia, the European and Russian special services took several hours to identify the identity of terrorists and show their faces on television. In Latin America, two decades have passed since the moment of the terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires, but the names of performers and customers are still unknown. Therefore, the Latin American states should realize a scale of the possible threat, because right now it is time to understand what kind of danger the terrorist groups such as the Islamic state, “Hezbollah” and others can inflict on the region without becoming a path of religious hatred.