Bin Laden’s Death Puts Renewed Spotlight on Islamic Terror Groups

first_img The death of Osama bin Laden has refocused attention on Islamic extremist groups throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. From Ciudad del Este, Paraguay — nicknamed “contraband capital of Latin America” — to Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, isolated pockets of Muslim extremists are suspected to have been involved in uprisings, car-bombings and other acts of violence over the years. The worst of those attacks took place in July 1994, when the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association headquarters in Buenos Aires was obliterated by a car bomb, killing 85 people and injuring more than 300. Two years earlier, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires had been destroyed by a similar car bomb, killing 29. Evidence gathered following both of these attacks clearly pointed the finger at Hezbollah agents. In 1990, local militants belonging to a group known as Jamaat al-Muslimeen stormed Trinidad’s parliament building and wired then-Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson with explosives, threatening to kill him if their demands were not met. The attempted coup d’etat, led by Imam Yasin Abu-Bakr, left 24 dead and Port of Spain in ruins. Possible links to al-Qaeda have been reported in Honduras and allegations of Hezbollah activity have for years dogged the Venezuelan-Colombian border area of La Guaira as well as the Venezuelan resort island of Margarita. Shortly before bin Laden´s death, local media made accusations that al-Qaeda is active in Brazil with at least 20 high-profile terrorists who recruit, raise money and plan activities for violent organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Prominent Brazilian journalist Sérgio Malbergier, a columnist for the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, suggests that the May 2 killing of Bin Laden by U.S. forces was his “second death.” “The first came during the recent wave of democratic protests in the Middle East, with young people seeking modern democracy and not religious fundamentalism and jihad as espoused by the terrorist leader,” Malbergier wrote. “Bin Laden was killed by an American squadron in Pakistan just as Arab street protestors finally rose up against their oppressors and dictators … But what motivates young Syrians, Egyptians and Yemenis to face the bayonets of the Arab dictators is not Islamic fervor shared by Bin Laden and followers, but a yearning for freedom much closer to Western values.” Dr. Fabián Calle, professor at Argentina’s prestigious Torcuato Di Tella and Catholic universities and recognized specialist in South American defense matters, agrees that the Saudi-born terrorist’s death does not necessarily mean failure or an end to al-Qaeda. Therefore, Brazil is not immune to the continuing threat posed by al-Qaeda. According to the Sao Paulo-based weekly magazine Veja, Brazil is home to more than 20 terrorists engaged in fundraising, recruiting and planning activities for al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The lengthy Veja article, replete with timelines and photographs, claims that these clandestine activities are taking place beyond the tri-border area shared by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay — long suspected as a terrorist hideout. Veja’s exposé was derived in part from information supplied by the Brazilian Federal Police. Since publication, the article has been replicated, synthesized and analyzed by media throughout the Western Hemisphere. While its veracity is in question, the directness and severity of its accusations have raised eyebrows around the world. While the Brazilian government itself has not expressed too much concern regarding terrorist activities on its soil, it has recognized the existence of legitimate money transfers to the Middle East. The Veja article indicates that terrorists are not only raising money from Brazil but also planning attacks and coordinating communications. While Brasília is committed to counterterrorism efforts, the article raises doubts about the adequacy of its legal system for dealing with terrorists and terrorist suspects. These suspects, according to the weekly magazine, include Khaled Hussein Ali, who was born in Lebanon but since the 1990s has lived in São Paulo, where he runs an Internet café. From there, Hussein Ali reportedly controls the online communications arm of al-Qaeda — “Jihad Media Battalion” — which publishes speeches by leaders and provides updates on international attacks. Nicknamed “The Prince,” Hussein Ali was arrested by Brazil’s Federal Police in March 2009 for suspicious activities. Found on his confiscated computer were maps of Afghanistan and messages inciting hatred of Jews and blacks. Veja claims that training manuals from the al-Qassam Brigade (connected to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas) were also found on Hussein Ali’s computer. He spent 21 days in prison accused of racism and inciting crime, but was then released since terrorism is not an offense according to the Brazilian criminal code. So far Brazil has not passed any specific anti-terrorism legislation and, in 2009, it disbanded the Federal Police’s anti-terrorism service. According to Veja, Iran’s Mohsen Rabbani — currently on Interpol’s most-wanted “red list” for his participation in the 1994 AMIA attack in Buenos Aires — visits Brazil occasionally on a false passport. That incident still ranks as the single worst terrorist attack in Latin American history. While in the country, this Hezbollah leader proselytizes poor Brazilians in the interior about the virtues of jihad. Veja alleges that Rabbani’s last visit was in September 2010. On Apr. 6 — the day the Veja article was published — Rabbani participated in a friendly radio interview with Argentine protest organizer Luís D’elía. During their conversation, Rabbani denied traveling to Brazil on a false passport and claimed he’s been teaching in Iran since 1997, when he left his post as cultural attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires. He also said he wouldn’t subject himself to the Argentine justice system, calling the accusations against him “smoke curtains” for their lack of evidence. Brazil is a signatory to more than a dozen counterterrorism conventions, and cooperates with the police and intelligence units of many countries, including the United States, through the Three-Plus-One regional mechanism. Three-Plus-One, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and the United States together, focuses on fighting terrorism in the tri-border area. In November 2003, Brazil complied with a request from the Paraguayan government to extradite Assad Ahmad Barakat, a man of Lebanese origin with ties to Hezbollah. In Paraguay, he was eventually charged with criminal activity. Burdened by a vast territory and porous borders, Brazil has also actively worked to improve its monitoring of entry points. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that Brazil would be chosen to host the 2014 World Cup games or the 2016 Summer Olympics if international authorities were concerned about the domestic terrorist threat. In the last few years, Brazil has shown its willingness to crack down on drug traffickers and narcoviolence in its previously impenetrable favelas. More than a dozen of these slums — once isolated from the outside world — are now patrolled by community police. By Dialogo May 20, 2011last_img read more

His time now: Konz finding voice as leader

first_imgCenter Peter Konz has started 20 of his 21 career games. Entering his redshirt junior season, Konz will be counted on more as a leader.[/media-credit]On the field, Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt were two of the best offensive linemen in the country.They also happened to be just as good off of it.Carimi protected Scott Tolzien’s blind side at left tackle for the Badgers and received the Outland Trophy – given annually to the best lineman – for his masterful 2010 season.Moffitt was equally effective at left guard and he joined Carimi on the Associated Press All-American team.Those two senior captains anchored the University of Wisconsin offensive line and were two of the best leaders to come through the program.They were vocal when they had to be. They constantly studied their craft with extra hours in the film room. They knew how to lighten the mood when appropriate and they knew when it was necessary to call someone out.They led by example and they commanded their teammates’ respect.But now, they’re off to the NFL, and they need to be replaced.Ricky Wagner will slide over to take Carimi’s spot at left tackle and Travis Frederick will step in for Moffitt at left guard, but where will the leadership come from?Who will step up and fill that massive void?Look no further than center Peter Konz.“I feel like that responsibility is now placed on me, as it should be,” Konz said. “I’ve seen a lot of games. I’m supposed to be the quarterback of the O-line and I need to be better at that.”Konz has all the tools necessary to become the next elite Badger lineman.He’s played in 21 games and started 20 of them. He has tremendous mobility for a 6-foot-6, 315-pound center, making him a force in the run game, pulling from side to side to pave the way.His quick feet make him a reliable pass protector and his quick mind (two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection) helps to diagnose blitzes.Konz was a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten selection and he’ll be widely considered one of the top centers in the nation heading into the 2011 season.He’s confident in his abilities to play at the high level expected of him, but Konz knows he needs to grow as a leader.With Moffitt and Carimi gone, his role on this team has undeniably changed.“Oh yeah, it’s changed. I try to call out more of the defensive stuff. I have to be more of a vocal guy,” Konz said. “Before, I would just sit back and if something was going wrong, Moffitt or Gabe or both of them would step in and say, ‘Hey, we need to fix this.’ If there was a blitz that I didn’t see, then it was Gabe or Moff saying what we’ve got.”As the center, Konz has the responsibility of calling out assignments at the line of scrimmage, but last year Moffitt and Carimi were the vocal ones and they often had the final say before the ball was snapped.“If I made a call, sometimes they would feel that they could override it – sometimes it wouldn’t work and sometimes it did,” Konz said. “It was a little uncomfortable making calls because it was like, ‘Do I have all this say?’. But those guys did a good job respecting what I had to do.”Konz is running the show now, and will be the definitive voice of the O-line from his center position. Knowing blocking assignments and calling out oncoming blitzes is something he’s comfortable with, but that’s just one part of the job.The hard part for the redshirt junior now comes when things go wrong, when his teammates make mistakes and need to be told what to do.At times, Konz, who is known for his engaging demeanor and humorous nature, needs to be a disciplinarian. That hasn’t been easy.“A lot of times I’ll be quiet just because I don’t like telling guys what to do. Sometimes you need to be an asshole – I’m terrible at that,” Konz said. “But I can promise you if I don’t do that, then its not going to be a good season.”Konz won’t allow foolish mistakes to reoccur time and time again in practice. Earlier in the spring, the centers were taking part in a snapping drill in which numerous balls hit the ground.Centers simply cannot afford fumbled snaps and Konz felt he needed to step in.So he made everyone start over.“We snapped and I made everybody go back and do it again and I hate doing that. I know no one is trying to purposely fumble the ball. … We have a bunch of new centers but it’s getting to the point where it’s every day and I had to say something,” Konz explained. “I know I’ve been there. I’ve been the one fumbling and making mistakes, so for me to call guys out is just tough.“But if we want to win, that is what has to happen.”Konz recently suffered a high ankle sprain in practice, so he’ll be in street clothes for the remainder of spring camp. But he’s out there on the field, watching every drill closely, delivering pointers to his teammates.He’s slowly transforming himself into the vocal leader in the trenches his offense needs ?- even if it means leaving his comfort zone to do it.“I know I can do it, and if I didn’t, I would be hurting the team,” Konz said. “Good teams always have those leaders stepping up and now it’s on me to do that.”last_img read more